THE SHORT VERDICT:
A noona romance that reminds me all over again why I love kdrama.
There are a good number of reasons to love this drama: a good story, robust themes, a brisk pace that’s well-kept for the most part, engaging characters that are well-written and well-acted, heartwarming relationships all-around (well, almost all-around), a very enjoyable OST, and a fantasy, superpower bent that gives rise to related hijinks, many of the romantic variety. Yes, Omo!
My top reason for loving this show, though, can be summed in this character still right here. Everything about this boy-man, from how he’s written to how he’s portrayed, floats my boat. Melt, melt and melt.
THE LONG VERDICT:
Oh, this show. Just so, so many feels.
Before starting on this show, I’d heard all the raves about how cracky and addictive it is. Even with that fair warning, though, I was surprised by how much I liked it.
Let’s just say that this show wasted no time in stealing my heart, and I couldn’t quite stop myself from squealing out loud. *cough* Y’know, just.. at times.
This isn’t a perfect show by any means, and the flaws aren’t even that hard to pick out. But this show hits all the right notes where it matters the most: it’s got oodles and oodles of heart, and isn’t afraid to show it.
And at the heart of the matter, isn’t that why we love our dramas?
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
CINEMATOGRAPHY & OST
I really liked that fact that the cinematography and OST never feels obtrusive in this show, yet in their understated-ness, together, they manage to create a world that feels just that little bit surreal, like a sort of hyper-reality.
My favorite, favorite thing – ok, my two favorite things – about the cinematography is the predominantly warm, bright, happy, intense Spring palette, combined with wonderful, loving, skillful lighting. Together, these things made magic on my screen, I tell ya.
Case in point: Park Soo Ha (Lee Jong Suk), bathed in warm, beautiful, glorious light. That gorgeous lighting, with that fabulously warm Spring palette makes Soo Ha look stunningly surreal. You almost want to ask: Is this boy real?
On a random side note, I was so taken with this first screenshot that it’s made it to header duty on the blog. Have you spotted it yet? 😉
Yes, sometimes the color palette desaturates a little, and hints of cool creep onto our screens, and I love that it’s used not only sparingly, but meaningfully.
Like here, when Soo Ha himself feels tired out and drained, our color palette is suitably slightly desaturated as well. Like the warmth, energy and life has drained out of him, just a little:
Or here, when the scene’s content leans towards the more foreboding, the color palette is starkly cool.
I’d just like to mention that not all night scenes are painted in cool colors, and the show chooses to stay in warmer tones even during most of its night scenes, thus retaining its general tone of warm and cozy very effectively through its deliberate choice of palette.
Here’s a warm scene taken at night, just for comparison:
Gorgeous. And I’m not even talking about Lee Jong Suk at this point, heh.
I love that the show manages to give us that strong sense of warmth, even in night scenes, which can easily lean cool.
There is a little bit of fancy in the camera-work at times, but those are always light touches that add nuance without being distracting.
Here, we get a little bit of slo-mo glass shattering, and it’s skillfully employed to deepen our experience of the moment, without disturbing the flow of the scene.
Here, I love the subtlety in the camera angle that makes Soo Ha’s leg look superhumanly long.
It doesn’t distract from the loving frame created by the warm palette and the gorgeous lighting, but for those who notice the detail, it adds to the surreality of Soo Ha’s character and the world in which he lives. And I love that.
Like the cinematography, the OST is predominantly warm and light too, with a number of lovely feel-good tracks that I never tire of hearing.
At the same time, there is a smattering of more wistful songs and some suitably suspenseful tracks for the more tense stretches of our show.
I really enjoyed the OST, and found it helped to heighten the viewing experience without being overwhelming.
Very nice indeed.
One of the strengths of this show, is how the characters are all written with facets such that each character feels like a real person. There are no cookie-cutter characters except for a tiny handful among the supporting cast. There is no Candy, and no cold chaebol prince.
Everyone is flawed yet likable, and just overwhelmingly normal.. Well ok, except for the part where Soo Ha can hear other people’s thoughts. That’s a little less normal.
I love that everyone has their own backstory and motivations, which we come to appreciate. Even baddies get to have their backstories told, and I really appreciate that about the writing. There isn’t a single character that is evil for evil’s sake.
All our characters are well-delivered to varying degrees, with some truly stand-out performances among our cast.
Lee Bo Young as Jang Hye Sung
I hafta say that Lee Bo Young completely surpassed my expectations in her turn as Hye Sung, and effectively changed my mind about her as an actress.
Prior to this show, I’d been consistently underwhelmed by each of the roles in which I’d seen Lee Bo Young, from Save Your Last Dance For Me (2004), to Hooray for Love (2011), to The Equator Man (2012). I just couldn’t get into any of her roles, try as I might.
The impression I had of her was a pretty meh actress whose acting felt rather flat most of the time. I’d found her serviceable at best.
Imagine my happy surprise, to find that Lee Bo Young does such a fine job of playing Hye Sung. Ok, so she didn’t quite pull a Jung Ryu Won on me, where my feelings for Jung Ryu Wong went from super-meh to super-love with her single performance in History of the Salaryman.
But going from intense meh to substantial like is very impressive too, and that’s what Lee Bo Young accomplished in my mind with IHYV.
As a character, Hye Sung is very flawed: she’s self-centered, vain, petty, proud, stubborn and often rude. All not very likable traits, to be sure.
The big chink in her armor, though, is that we get to see that most of her bravado is largely empty bluster, and that on the inside, she does care what people think, she does have a sense of justice, and she is (much) more easily embarrassed than she’d like the rest of the world to think.
That access to Hye Sung’s inner workings, essentially, is what makes prickly Hye Sung a relatable protagonist.
And I love that Lee Bo Young is so gung-ho in tackling even the less glamorous aspects of Hye Sung as a character. I mean, just look at her here:
She wears the ridiculous with attitude, and that just makes her not only highly amusing, but extremely endearing as well.
This screencap here is a great sum-up of Hye Sung’s way of facing the world: she channels her false bravado into this hard outer shell with glints of steel in her eyes and a bit of a smile about her lips.
Ok, so she’s not always smiling and is sometimes downright sullen. But you get the idea.
And it’s while riding that bravado that she confronts people and situations head-on, like this:
But in the privacy of her own home, she often squirms with embarrassment and self-doubt:
And sometimes even gives in to tears:
When at work, I love that Hye Sung uses the very public revolving door as her thinking place and safe haven.
There’s something just so interesting and ironic about that, that she finds solitude, quiet and safety in a place so public and so open to the world. Might this be a metaphor for her character’s transparent nature, perhaps?
In episode 8, it is after one such spin in her revolving door that Hye Sung swallows her pride and goes to beg Do Yeon (Lee Da Hee) for help in putting away her mother’s killer, and even goes down on her knees to do so, despite the fact that they have a contentious, checkered history between them.
This is one of the interesting things I noticed about Hye Sung.
That even though she does possess a fierce sense of right and wrong (also mentioned in an early episode by her mother, played by Kim Hae Sook), her sense of care and loyalty to those who matter to her, is even stronger; strong enough to overrule her moral compass if need be.
Here, she fights her conscience to admit a wrong she never did commit, because she simply cannot bear the thought that her mother’s killer may go free if she does nothing.
Later, we see this trait surface again in episode 18, where Soo Ha receives a subpoena for attempted murder, and Hye Sung, panicked and worried, urges him to lie so that his life won’t be ruined.
There’s just something so human and so vulnerable about Hye Sung’s struggle between her moral compass and her loyalties to her loved ones that we can’t help but identify with her.
There are many scenes in which I thought Lee Bo Young did admirably, but the one that sticks with me the most is this one in episode 9, after Min Joon Gook (Jung Woong In) is acquitted for her mother’s murder.
After the verdict, Hye Sung silently walks into her revolving door, and once there, she breaks down in gulping, heartbreaking sobs.
Lee Bo Young blew me away in this scene, with her all-in, no vanity crying. I felt Hye Sung’s pain, grief and helplessness in this moment, and a lot of the credit goes to Lee Bo Young’s excellent delivery.
There is a lot more to say about Hye Sung as a character, which we’ll get to, when we talk about her various relationships with other characters.
Lee Jong Suk as Park Soo Ha
Man, oh man. Y’know, I’d thought that Lee Jong Suk had stolen my heart in his role as Go Nam Soon in School 2013, but he manages to make me love him even more in this show. That’s some skills, I tell ya.
Credit goes to both the writing and Lee Jong Suk’s delivery.
As a character, Soo Ha is very appealing, even before we take Lee Jong Suk’s delivery into account.
Soo Ha is earnest, kind, caring, smart, and very serious about keeping his promises. Add on the fact that he nurses a ginormous noona crush, and that his levels of happy shoot through the roof when he’s feeling good about said noona crush, and all noonas the world over are toast.
Now take one Lee Jong Suk, and insert his sincere, nuanced, and completely believable portrayal of Soo Ha, and we get melted puddles of toast. Lots of melted puddles of toast.
Honestly, Lee Jong Suk as Park Soo Ha had me squeeing at my screen way early in this show. Every time he smiled (see above), it felt like my screen was exploding with rainbows and unicorns. And raining kittens and puppies and sparkles and cupcakes too.
I was smitten with his Soo Ha right from episode 1. When Soo Ha smiled or laughed, I practically wanted to explode from the cute. And when Soo Ha cried, man, my heart basically broke for him.
That level of engagement is largely to do with Lee Jong Suk. He has this way of sucking you into his character and holding you there, with his sensitive, unreserved, vulnerable delivery.
You not only start to root for him real fast, you start to intensely, badly, with-all-your-heart-and-from-the-bottom-of-your-belly want Puppy to be unhurt, safe and happy.
So. SO. Good.
From the moment that we meet Soo Ha in episode 1, you sorta can’t help but like him right away, the way he saves a classmate from a set of traps set by bullies.
Coz not only does he save her, he doesn’t take any credit for it whatsoever, and simply pretends to walk into the traps himself, passing off everything as an accident. Talk about being a superhero under cover, right?
Not only that, we learn real fast how Soo Ha came to hear people’s thoughts, which is just so, so sad. You start to feel for him right away too, that he went through something so traumatic when he was just 8 years old.
We also see how little Soo Ha’s first words after the accident are to young Hye Sung; a sweetly stuttered promise, “I’ll protect you.”
And then we realize that 10 years on, 18-year-old Soo Ha hasn’t forgotten that promise, and continues to write in his diary to Hye Sung, “I haven’t forgotten you. When I see you again, I will protect you. I will protect you.” Just, how sweet is that?
Plus, that he writes that amid all the judo practice, which is basically to prepare himself to protect her? Aw. So melt-worthy. So determined. So committed.
And also. Such a Pure. Noona. Slayer.
We do get many cute scenes of Soo Ha, such as this one, where he nervously and excitedly primps and rehearses in front of a mirror in school, oblivious to his classmates’ staring, only conscious of the thought of possibly meeting Hye Sung again, after 10 long years.
At the same time, we get to see Soo Ha being a hero.
Early on, we see Soo Ha use his superpower several times to save others, with selfless spontaneity, such as this scene in episode 2 where he saves despondent classmate Sung Bin (Kim Ga Eun) from throwing herself in front of an oncoming train:
And again in episode 3, when he saves Hye Sung from a group of bullies:
What strikes me the most, though, is that at the heart of it all, after peeling away the layers of his superhero abilities and outward strength, Soo Ha really is all alone in the world.
He has no family around him, nor any friends who truly know and understand him. Scenes of Soo Ha, alone, are sprinkled through the episodes, and the sight of him waiting, pondering and just being alone are heartbreakingly poignant.
In the end, Soo Ha’s story isn’t just about growing up, although he does a good bit of that too.
More than that, I feel that his story is about the journey of him going from being alone and companionless, to finding someone, having someone and having the assurance that he’s not alone in the world anymore. And that is just such poignant, wonderful stuff.
Through it all, Lee Jong Suk’s delivery is fabulously engaging, faceted and natural.
Notably, there were several difficult scenes where he literally gave me goosebumps with his all-in, unrestrained expression.
Like here, in episode 4, where Soo Ha rages at Min Joon Gook and beats him up in a fury:
Soo Ha bites through gritted teeth,
“If [Hye Sung] hadn’t been there ten years ago, I would’ve died in your hands. So my life… I’ll count my life as already being lost… and I’m going to protect her.”
“Do you hear me? I’m going to hang my life on protecting her. So don’t even think about doing anything, because then I’m going to kill you.” Aw.
And Lee Jong Suk plays the moment all-in, with fire blazing from his eyes too. Wow.
Another notable scene is in episode 10, when Soo Ha is quietly confused and frightened while being detained in a cell overnight:
So subtly yet so sensitively portrayed.
And then there’s this scene, in episode 12, where Soo Ha regains his lost memories in a cloud of intense pain, confusion and horrified grief:
I literally couldn’t breathe for the duration of this scene; my heart was in my throat the whole time, choking me up and breaking and quivering all at once.
And last but not least, there’s the totally gut-wrenching scene in episode 16, where Soo Ha has a meltdown of epic proportions, almost driven mad with fear and worry at the thought of Hye Sung being kidnapped by Min Joon Gook.
Oof. My heart. The fear and terror in Soo Ha’s eyes, upon knowing that Joon Gook’s got Hye Sung, masterfully delivered by Lee Jong Suk, is so heartbreaking. And so, so good.
Lee Jong Suk totally shot up my mental list of brilliant k-actors with this role. Kudos. And respect.
Yoon Sang Hyun as Cha Kwan Woo
Yoon Sang Hyun does a pretty wonderful job portraying Cha Kwan Woo, a character who is equal parts adorable, hilarious derp, and earnest, upstanding moral compass.
Although he appears to be positioned as the second lead in the traditional kdrama love triangle, he.. really isn’t. His character does nurse a crush on Hye Sung, but he is so much more than the token second lead.
Over and above his place in our story as second lead, he’s the quirky, oddball, slightly bumbling lawyer with a ton of heart and naivete to spare, who needs to learn how to apply his faith in people in a more discerning manner, as much as the people around him need to learn how to have more of his kind of firm belief in others.
Yoon Sang Hyun is pretty fantastic in the role, playing Kwan Woo’s awkward ways with endearingly ungainly charm, while managing to imbue his character with pathos and gravitas in the weightier moments.
When we first meet Kwan Woo, Yoon Sang Hyun plays him as so socially awkward that it’s half second-hand embarrassing to watch, and half awesome. Of course, this quickly becomes mostly awesome, as we get used to his brand of humor and charm.
While we get a lot of derpy like this:
I love that Kwan Woo’s cheery and spunky, and just really, really hard to get down. His positive, never-say-die attitude is endearing and quite infectious.
At the same time, I love that Kwan Woo is fully capable of more serious moments, and one that sticks in my mind is here in episode 12, when Kwan Woo sees Hye Sung’s memories of the past play out in his mind’s eye.
As he thinks on Hye Sung’s memories of testifying against Min Joon Gook, Kwan Woo sees himself in the courtroom with her and Soo Ha, watching the events play out among them as he sits by as an onlooker.
Yoon Sang Hyun plays the moment with a yearning sort of melancholic compassion which is at once touching and quite heartwrenching.
So subtly played, and yet so affecting.
Perhaps one of my favorite Kwan Woo scenes is in episode 16.
Kwan Woo is the only one who notices that Lawyer Shin (Yoon Joo Sang) is feeling despondent and uncertain of his abilities as a lawyer after their victory in court, which is thanks to Hye Sung’s closing comments.
Spotting Lawyer Shin drinking alone at the pojangmacha, Kwan Woo joins him and starts to make a hilariously roundabout confession about how he was the one who had thrown poop all over Lawyer Shin’s car 7 years ago as an angry policeman, after Lawyer Shin had gotten a suspect that he’d worked super hard to nail, acquitted from lack of evidence.
Kwan Woo confesses that Lawyer Shin had been right, and that the actual culprit had then been subsequently captured. He finishes earnestly:
“Attorney Shin saved two people’s lives. You saved the life of Red Socks who could’ve been unjustly locked up behind bars and you saved the life of a cop who almost could’ve sent a person away to jail unjustly.
So, I quit the police that very same day to start studying to become a lawyer. To become a public defense attorney just like you.
You gave me my new beginning. So, please stop blaming yourself like that and keep staying just where you are. While nagging us all the time… and yelling and scolding us all the time. Just continue to remain there.”
Moved, Lawyer Shin pulls him in for a big ol’ bear hug, but not before squeezing in a good hair-pull for the poop-throwing. Ha! And aw.
I love how Kwan Woo’s confession gives Lawyer Shin his self-confidence back. It’s sweet and completely heartwarming, which really, is the essence of Kwan Woo’s character.
And the moment explains so much, in terms of why Kwan Woo so doggedly wants to be a public defender, why he instinctively overcompensates with the trusting of his clients, and why he looks up to Lawyer Shin as his role model. Excellent stuff.
We get to see more of the stuff that Kwan Woo is made of, in his relationships with other characters, which we’ll get to touch on later in this review.
Lee Da Hee as Seo Do Yeon
Considering how Do Yeon begins the drama being Hye Sung’s antagonistic frenemy, it’s quite surprising and utterly satisfying to see that Do Yeon is much more than the token non-friend.
Over the course of the drama, Do Yeon’s personal arc gets nicely fleshed out, and we get to see much more than her cold, hard, aloof outer shell.
Not only do we become privy to her backstory, we get to witness an actual journey of growth, which is extra gratifying because we pretty much don’t see it coming.
Lee Da Hee delivers a decently robust performance as Do Yeon, and even has a few outstanding moments in the later episodes.
On a tangent, I hafta say, I found Lee Da Hee distractingly skinny. Did anyone else feel like she was going to snap in half at any given point in time? I did. A lot. Quick, somebody feed the woman something, anything!
Do Yeon as a character is easy to hate at first.
First of all, she’s a cold, hard-nosed prosecutor who sees the law as something aloof, impersonal and clinical and treats defendants who cross her path with that same detached indifference.
We see her wield the law with unflinching resolve against all her defendants, whether they are young and frightened or old and feeble, and we wonder how someone can be so unfeeling and cruel.
On top of that, Do Yeon has that checkered past that she shares with Hye Sung, where she had deliberately singled out Hye Sung as the girl who had caused her eye injury, even though it wasn’t true.
The fact that we see her sticking to her story even at the expense of Hye Sung’s mother’s job, and Hye Sung’s expulsion from school, and at the cost of mother and daughter literally losing the roof over their heads, seals her in our minds as a terribly selfish, ruthless person.
Which of course, makes it all the easier to dislike Do Yeon as a character.
As the show progresses, however, we begin to understand more of Do Yeon’s backstory, and we begin to see how desperately Do Yeon tries – and fails – to live up to the expectations of her father (Judge Seo, played by Jung Dong Hwan).
Over time, we see how her quest for his approval is invariably futile no matter how well she does, nor how hard she tries, and we also begin to see how fragile her confidence really is.
When Hye Sung first drops the bombshell on Do Yeon, that her biological father is prison inmate Hwang Dal Joong (Kim Byung Ok) instead of Judge Seo, is the moment that I really started to feel sorry for Do Yeon.
Later, Do Yeon gingerly tests the waters with “Dad” by casually mentioning Hye Sung’s “ridiculous” claims, only to have “Dad” confirm the truth by asking pointedly if she’d agreed to take the DNA test.
The brief scene afterwards, where Do Yeon silently seeks refuge on her cheerfully oblivious mother’s lap while trying to hold back her tears, really tugged at my heartstrings.
My heart went out to Do Yeon even more in the scenes following.
What really made me feel for her, is the condition that she lays down to Hye Sung for taking the DNA test: that Hye Sung ensure Judge Seo is unharmed through the entire proceeding.
Aw. Ugh. And wow. That Do Yeon would try so hard, and put herself through so much pain, just to protect the adoptive father who had never shown her any kind of acceptance, let alone affection? That just made my head spin.
Do Yeon’s private breakdowns and tears throughout this period really made me feel for her. And Lee Da Hee did an excellent job expressing Do Yeon’s confusion, pain and pent-up feelings of rejection.
As Do Yeon works through her emotions and pushes herself to carry on with the terrible process of prosecuting her own father, she becomes more and more of a sympathetic character.
To be stuck in a place where you’re conflicted about your loyalties to two fathers is an awful place to be, and Lee Da Hee expressed that inner conflict with heartbreaking realism that stays true to her character.
Eventually, when Do Yeon accepts and acknowledges Hwang Dal Joong as her father, it is gratifying not only because we get to see their cute interactions as father and daughter, but also because we get to see Do Yeon finally receive the fatherly affection and acceptance that she’s longed for her whole life.
Because Hwang Dal Joong is terminally ill, these father-daughter scenes are truly bittersweet, because as lovely as it is to see them together, it’s sobering and saddening to know that this season is going to be a brief one. Sniff.
By the end of the show, the scene that seals for me the extent of Do Yeon’s growth as a character, is in episode 17, after Min Joon Gook has been captured.
Speaking with Kwan Woo outside the hospital, Do Yeon asks urgently, “Is Hye Sung okay?”
When Kwan Woo assures her that Hye Sung is alright, Do Yeon heaves a sigh, “That’s such a relief.” She then presses, “Park Soo Ha’s safe too, right? He didn’t do anything reckless, did he?”
In this moment, Do Yeon’s entire demeanor betrays her genuine worry and care for both Hye Sung and Soo Ha.
When she is assured that they are both fine and that Min Joon Gook has been taken into custody, Do Yeon says with the kind of “you-mess-with-them-and-you-mess-with-me” resolve of an upset friend:
“There’s no way that Min Joon Gook is going to get away with it this time. Starting with murder, threats, retaliation and aggravated assault…
I’m going to throw everything in the book at him and indict him of all those charges.” … “we need to make sure that someone like him disappears from this society forever.”
Aw. I love that cold, aloof Do Yeon is pretty much gone, and in her place is someone who actually has people that she cares for, and isn’t afraid to show it, just a little.
Jung Woong In as Min Joon Gook
Jung Woong In is pitch perfect as resident baddie Min Joon Gook, making him effectively creepy, unnerving and sometimes, downright scary.
Without being spoilery, let me just say that I’m impressed with the way Min Joon Gook is written as a character. Given the premise, it would’ve been way too easy to make Min Joon Gook evil for evil’s sake.
Y’know, just Pure Unadulterated Evil, that we can all hate unreservedly, and curse thoroughly.
Instead, the writers give Min Joon Gook an entire backstory, and over time, we come to understand his motivations and the forces that drive him. And in that, we begin to see him no longer as monster, but as human. Which is such an impressive accomplishment, really.
Kudos to the thoughtful characterization by the writers, and the effective delivery by Jung Woong In.
I’ll be the first to admit that I disliked Min Joon Gook’s character from the very beginning. I mean, there was just so much to dislike, really.
A murderer who kills a boy’s father in front of him, and then moves to kill the boy too? And who threatens teenage witnesses with death if they dare to tell anyone what they saw?
And who then seeks out the kids after his release, to make good on his promise of killing them? And then starts to kill other people too?
So many awful, horrific misdeeds, and that’s not even counting taunting and stalking Hye Sung, and sending creepy messages.
Given that context, I’d say it’s really no easy task, to then make this same character at all sympathetic to the audience. And yet, by the end of the show, I did have some sympathy for Min Joon Gook.
One of the key turning points, for me, is the flashback scene that we see of Min Joon Gook confronting Soo Ha by the fishing pond.
Min Joon Gook screams at Soo Ha that it was Soo Ha’s father who’d started it all, that Soo Ha’s father had killed his wife.
As they scuffle, Min Joon Gook dares Soo Ha, “Kill me. Go ahead. Kill me. What makes you different from me eleven years ago?”
And it is that desperation in his voice that gives us the first hint to Min Joon Gook’s ultimate quest: to prove that he’s not a monster, that someone else in his position would have done the same.
When Soo Ha doesn’t kill him, Min Joon Gook’s stunned expression says so much, as he processes the fact that perhaps not everyone would’ve done the same.
In Min Joon Gook’s final confrontation with Soo Ha in episode 17, after a second, carefully-orchestrated attempt to test his theory fails yet again, the disoriented, lost, defeated look on his face is so poignant.
It’s like he can’t quite believe the outcome of his experiment, yet has no choice but to believe it. And along with that, comes the realization that perhaps he is a monster. And, that he didn’t have to become one.
Certainly, afterwards, we see that Min Joon Gook still harbors blame towards Soo Ha’s father for what he did. In that, though, I find his characterization realistic. Most people need time to process and come to terms with big realizations like this.
Big props to the writers, for putting enough care into writing Min Joon Gook’s character and backstory, to the extent that we can even feel some measure of sympathy for a murderer.
Kim Hae Sook as Hye Sung’s Mom
Kim Hae Sook is simply my favorite kdrama mother of all time. I mean, there is a reason that she is known as Korea’s Mother. And that reason is: she just rawks.
I simply love everything about Hye Sung’s mom in this show.
From the way she’s written, to the way she’s portrayed; as a character on her own, and in the way she relates to people, Hye Sung’s mom is just layer upon layer of Pure Awesome. And Kim Hae Sook brings her endearingly, adorably, awesomely to life.
Hye Sung’s mom is an awesome mom, there’s no doubt about it. And while we’ll talk more about that in the Relationships section of this review, I just wanted to pay tribute to her as the wonderfully strong, awesome person that she is.
Have I mentioned that she’s awesome?
I love that Mom is as humorous as she is practical, and I particularly love this screenshot of her, matter-of-factly peeling onions while wearing a snorkeling mask. How cute is she?!?
Practically every scene with Mom in it is an example of her awesomeness.
One of my favorite Mom scenes is in episode 3, when Hye Sung calls her while walking over to Mom’s shop, to tell her that she’s won her first case as public defender.
Mom stifles her excitement, and gruffly covers it up saying “Whatever, why should I be proud when you’re just doing your job?”
Completely unaware that Hye Sung can see her every move, Mom totally practically explodes from the excitement, kissing her phone and breaking into the most adorable dance, right there on the street.
Didn’t I say she’s awesome???
I LUFF MOM!! ❤
On a much more sober note, Mom shows exactly the stuff that she’s made of in episode 7, when Min Joon Gook has her hostage and her life is in real danger.
When this scene happened, my first reaction was “Oh no. Not Mom!”
But how strong and badass is she? She refuses to lure Hye Sung by saying anything about Joon Gook over the phone.
Instead, her parting words to Hye Sung: “Promise me.” … “don’t waste your life by filling it with hate for someone else. You only live once… so you should live your life loving those that are around you.”
After getting beaten bloody and under threat of death, in response to Joon Gook’s question if she’s scared, Mum answers,
“No, I’m not scared. I just find you… pathetic and I feel sorry for you.” … “You spent all your life hating and resenting someone else. What a hell your life must have been.”
Joon Gook spits back angrily, “Is that right? Then I guess now your daughter will be living in the same hell I’ve been living in. While hating me for the rest of her life for killing her mom… with her teeth gritted and planning my revenge. Isn’t that right?”
With eyes blazing, Mum actually smiles, saying, “She won’t live her life that way. I didn’t raise her to be pathetic as you.”
And so, SO awesome. ❤
Like the characters, the relationships in this show are just as lovingly drawn. While romance is a big part of the show, the writers don’t neglect other sorts of relationships either.
We get to experience a nice mix of relationships during the course of the drama, ranging from between parent and child, to between friends, to between lovers.
Each relationship is fleshed out with care, and has its own development arc, and I liked that a lot.
Here, I’m just going to talk about some of my favorite relationships in the show.
Soo Ha & Hye Sung
There is so much cute between these two, that the cute alone could probably carry the show. Thankfully, though, we get something much more substantial than just cute.
I love the fact that the relationship between Soo Ha and Hye Sung is thoughtfully written so that it progresses in a believable fashion and each character affects the other in meaningful, growth-resulting ways, yet is peppered with enough cute, squee and swoon to float any fangirl’s boat.
While Lee Bo Young does a decent job selling this pairing, I hafta say, Lee Jong Suk sells it way, wayy better.
It’s his earnest, heart-on-his-sleeve, all-in interpretation of Soo Ha’s growing feelings and emotions, that truly melts my knees. It’s more his love for her that gets me, than their love for each other (although that’s sweet too).
And that totally works for me, coz when Puppy’s happy, I’m happy.
Over and above the thoughtful relationship development and delivery, though, lies a theme – an idea – that gets me Right. In. The. Heart.
And it is this theme (which I shan’t unveil until we get to spoilers, for the benefit of those who don’t want to be spoiled) that literally trumps ALL for me, in making this OTP – heck, possibly this entire show – Pure Unblemished Gold.
So I thought about being a tease, and talking about that theme later in this spoiler section, but I decided that this is big enough, and important enough, and well, amazing enough, that I kinda want to talk about it right away.
First, let’s revisit a scene that sums up that theme succinctly.
In episode 15, Hye Sung is upset with Soo Ha and huffily wears a Darth Vader-like visor in order to shield her eyes and prevent him from reading her thoughts.
She wears the visor all the way to work, and basically refuses to talk very much with Soo Ha at all.
Soo Ha waits for her to get off work, and finally corners her so that he can talk to her. And when he does get her reluctant attention, this is what he says, eyes full of earnest emotion, hands clasping hers:
“If you’re mad at me, then tell me instead of hiding it. I won’t get hurt no matter what you’re thinking. I understood when my own uncle abandoned me.
Even when you called me an ankle grabbing gum shoe… and even when you told me that it was your fault that your mother passed away… I just accepted your thoughts and just let it all go. And I’m going to continue to do so.
I’ve heard the worst that you could think of me, and have accepted them all. And I’ve also seen the worst of you, and accepted them all.
No matter what you say to me in the future and what you show me… I’ll never be disappointed in you. So… don’t use this to hide your face.”
Hye Sung refuses, “No, don’t look.”
Soo Ha insists, “I just told you. No matter what it is that you’re thinking, you can’t hurt me.” And he lifts the visor away from her face, just in time to hear Hye Sung squeaking in her thoughts, “What should I do? Why won’t my heart stop racing?”
Even though the scene ends on an amusing note, it is the heart of Soo Ha’s assurance to Hye Sung that is so swoony. Those words, “I will accept you anyway” … “I will never be disappointed in you, no matter what” – isn’t that what we all long to hear?
And yes, there are some of us who’ve had the wondrous pleasure of hearing those precious words from a loved one. But the key difference here, is that Soo Ha can hear every. single. thought. of Hye Sung’s.
He literally sees the worst of her that there is to see, down to the smallest, darkest, worst bad thought she could ever think. And. He loves her anyway.
Seriously. How mind-bogglingly amazing is that?
This, I believe, is what we all want, as human beings. To be loved as ourselves, rather than a manufactured version of ourselves. Coz when we can be loved as ourselves, warts and all, then we are truly loved.
So often, we do our best to present our best selves to others, and we try hard, to curtail our tongues from giving voice to hurtful words and inappropriate thoughts.
But as mere human beings, the best we can do is manage the thoughts that we give voice to; the thoughts themselves, we can’t quite get a full hold of.
And there are many among us who feel, deep down, that if the people around us actually knew the kinds of thoughts that go through our minds sometimes, that they probably wouldn’t like us very much at all. Or, at the very least, wouldn’t like or love us as much, as if they didn’t know.
Yet, here, we have Soo Ha, who can’t help but hear each and every petty, selfish, embarrassing thought that passes through the deepest, darkest corners of Hye Sung’s very soul. And he loves her anyway.
That is the purest form of love, isn’t it? To know every bad about the other, down to the tiniest, minutest detail, and be able to accept, forgive and love anyway?
Even without the cute, this is more than enough to grab me, completely and unrelentingly, by the heart.
That the writers manage to distill this idea and serve it up over the course of the show with such heartfelt, earnest sincerity, just trumps everything.
Yes, there are no mind-reading Soo Ha’s in Real Life. But to have presented something so profound, that it connects us, as an audience, to such a fundamental, core desire of our being, is just so powerful, potent, and amazing. I love it.
Ok, now I need a moment. This is just such intense, wonderful, heart-grabby stuff that I need to process that all over again.
Growth & Healing
In my mind, one of the most meaningful aspects in Soo Ha’s and Hye Sung’s relationship, is how they not only help each other to grow, but also, in how they help each other to heal.
In this respect, their story is more than a noona romance; it’s about two broken people healing each other. And that is just moving, uplifting, gratifying stuff.
Hye Sung for Soo Ha:
Hye Sung is to Soo Ha the family that he’s been yearning to have all these years.
In episode 6, when Soo Ha is suspected for taking Bumbling Cop’s lost gun, Hye Sung cuts short her date with Kwan Woo and rushes home to cover for Soo Ha.
She hilariously douses her hair in water and throws a towel on it, so that she can plausibly “verify” that Soo Ha isn’t at home, and that he’s a good kid who wouldn’t do something like steal a cop’s gun.
Soo Ha overhears the whole thing, and afterwards thinks to himself, “…I’ve now found someone who’s concerned about my welfare.” Aw.
How poignant, not only that Soo Ha is finding comfort in her concern for him, but also that he’s so unused to the sensation of having someone worry for him, having been alone for most of his life. Sniff.
And I love that just having someone worry for him, is a healing process for him. Aw. My heart. It’s gone melty. ❤
In a scene shortly after, while Hye Sung and Soo Ha are folding laundry, they talk about the gun incident, and Hye Sung grabs Soo Ha’s face to drive home a point.
Intently, she instructs him not to ever kill Min Joon Gook, no matter how badly he wants to. Hye Sung tells Soo Ha,
“If you do, then all the reasons disappear – what a terrible person Min Joon Gook is, why we hated him – those things disappear. The moment we kill him, we cease to be victims, and just become murderers.”
Hye Sung’s little instructions like these, are part of how she helps Soo Ha to grow up fully, from boy to man. And I love that he takes her words very much to heart.
It is the memory of these same words that stops Soo Ha from killing Min Joon Gook in the critical moment by the fishing pond.
And related to this lesson, is the lesson that throwing his life away for someone else isn’t the better outcome. All along, Soo Ha had counted his life as lost, and was ever-ready to die if it meant he could protect Hye Sung.
But it is her teaching and her instructions, and the promises that she asks of him, that finally drive home that lesson, that the greater, better thing, is to live.
In episode 17, when faced with Hye Sung’s kidnap, I love that Soo Ha calls Kwan Woo and asks for help. I love that the reason Soo Ha doesn’t want to die, is because it would scar Hye Sung. His choice to live, to ask for help, is for her. Tears.
I love that in being there for him, and worrying for him, and in teaching him, Hye Sung helps Soo Ha to not only make the full transition from boy to man, but also to heal, from broken to whole.
Soo Ha for Hye Sung:
Despite being younger than Hye Sung, Soo Ha is actually more mature than Hye Sung in a good number of ways, and he helps her to grow as much as she does for him.
This is one of the key things that balances out the power dynamic in this noona relationship, and makes it feel surprisingly natural, despite the significant age gap.
One of the things that I love about Soo Ha’s love for Hye Sung, is that it is, and has always been, a decision. It’s not based on something as volatile as feelings and emotions. Rather, the foundation of his love for her, has been of more resilient, robust stuff, like resolve and choice.
From the moment that 8-year-old Soo Ha declared that he would protect Hye Sung, he’s stood by that decision, learning judo and constantly searching for her, so that he can make good on that promise.
Certainly, there were moments where Soo Ha wavered, but even in those moments, in the end, he consistently chose to stand by his decision to love and protect her.
We see an example of this in episode 2, where 18-year-old Soo Ha speaks with Hye Sung for the first time in 10 years, outside the courthouse.
Soo Ha’s efforts to reason with a jaded Hye Sung about Sung Bin’s innocence bring him up against a brick wall, and Hye Sung’s parting shot to him – “You don’t win the truth in court. Whatever wins in court is the truth.” – seems to be the nail in the coffin.
Completely disillusioned with Hye Sung, whom he’d always believed to be a person who stands for truth and justice, Soo Ha throws in the trash the diary where he’d kept his “letters” to Hye Sung.
Moments later, Soo Ha picks the diary back up. And the thought that he thinks as he does so, is, “I will protect you”
I love that. I love that despite Hye Sung’s unsavory behavior, Soo Ha is choosing to protect her. And as it turns out, that protection is not only from the possible threat of Min Joon Gook, but also from herself, and from the dark side of jadedness and apathy.
The very same episode, Soo Ha’s words give Hye Sung enough pause for thought that she decides to plead “not guilty” on Sung Bin’s case.
I love the look on Soo Ha’s face in the moment.
It’s clear as day how proud he is of her. Aw. He’s protecting her by dragging her over to the good side, of justice and truth; protecting her by making her grow, even if it’s against her will.
When Hye Sung’s mom dies and her world falls apart, I love that Soo Ha’s presence becomes her healing.
Like here, in the hospital, when Hye Sung first collapses on hearing the news:
And here, when he cries with her at her mom’s funeral:
In the days following her mom’s death, it is also Soo Ha’s presence that supports her.
Like here, when Soo Ha puts his arm around Hye Sung to go into the courtroom, coz she’s scared. Aw.
When anger consumes Hye Sung as she processes her mom’s death, I LOVE that Soo Ha refuses to leave Hye Sung’s side, even when she insists that he do just that. Even though she threatens that she doesn’t know what she’ll end up saying to him, he doesn’t budge.
She finally spits out, “I blame you thousands, tens of thousands of times a day. That this is because I testified for you in that courtroom ten years ago… and that this is all your fault! Why? Want to hear even more?”
Quietly, Soo Ha answers, “Go ahead. I’ll listen to it all. Say it. You can swear at me, too. I’ll stay by your side and listen to it all.”
I LOVE that he returns gentleness and acceptance for her angry lashing.
He knows more about love than most adults, really.
Later that same episode, I love that little moment, where Soo Ha reaches to wipe away Hye Sung’s angry, helpless tears as she stomps on the blankets.
And I love too, that Soo Ha takes over the nagging, asking her to come out and eat when she holes herself up in her room.
In spirit and in practice, I love that Soo Ha effectively becomes Hye Sung’s family, helping to heal her by filling in the gap left by her mother’s death.
I love that this motif, of Soo Ha being Hye Sung’s family is kept up even in later episodes, like this little moment in episode 15 where Soo Ha gets all huffy after Hye Sung gets slapped by an upset Do Yeon:
So sweetly adorable.
As much as Hye Sung brings growth and healing to Soo Ha’s life, he does the same for her.
That these growth and healing steps take place right in the midst of the ordinariness of sharing the same living space and being around each other, I find just extra meaningful, and quite profound.
While there are many swoony moments between our OTP over the course of the show, I realize that some of my favorite scenes actually are the more understated ones. Here, I’m just going to highlight a few of those moments.
One of my favorite moments of understated swoon is in episode 5, when Hye Sung dresses Soo Ha’s injured thumb while he sleeps.
The way Hye Sung puts Soo Ha’s hand on her knee looks so casually cozy that it brought on an Omo!
Even better than that, though, is the way Soo Ha wakes up halfway and just lies there watching her with sleepy, thoughtful eyes. Swoon.
As a huge bonus, we can totally see how it both amuses him and gives him a lot of pleasure – or should I say, fulfillment.
Not so much in a romantic sense, but in the sense that he never had anyone do these things for him growing up, after he lost his father and was abandoned by his uncle. This touches him in a very meaningful way, and you can see it in his eyes, the contentment. Aw. ❤
Another one of my favorite OTP moments is in episode 7, when Hye Sung’s throat is sore from shouting all day trying to communicate with a defendant who’s hard of hearing.
It’s super cute that Soo Ha tells Hye Sung to just think at him, since her throat hurts.
Hye Sung does just that, and it’s adorable how they communicate like that, her thinking at him, face expressive and hands gesticulating, while he smiles, listening.
What totally gets me, though, is the affectionate look in Soo Ha’s eyes.. Eeee!! So swoony!!
I also love how comfortable Soo Ha and Hye Sung are with each other.. There’s a rhythm of familiarity and closeness to their interactions which I really like.
I enjoy the little off-the-cuff moments, when Hye Sung can’t reach an item on a high shelf, or open a bottle, and Soo Ha offhandedly does it for her without missing a beat.
I love even more, that in episode 7, when Soo Ha’s arm is hurt, that the rhythm reverses itself, and Hye Sung does the opening of the bottle thing for him instead.
How cute, that they have this thing between them, which is so much a second-nature thing that it doesn’t even require any spoken communication.
I love that this show doesn’t stinge on the awesome and the swoony when it comes to our OTP. And I love that they manage to serve up all the squee without compromising on other important things like character and relationship development.
Here, I’m just going to revisit some of the more swoony moments with our OTP that may have elicited more than a simple Omo! from me.
In episode 12, when Soo Ha finally regains his memories, he sits contemplatively outside the courthouse, pensively wondering, “What should I do? If you knew this, you’d hate me more. And if you knew that Min Joon Gook was still alive, how scared would you be?”
Just as Soo Ha’s chewing on that thought, Hye Sung exits the building, calling Soo Ha on his cellphone, all excited about Min Joon Gook being alive, because it means that the charges against Soo Ha will have to be dropped.
Soo Ha stares at Hye Sung intently for a moment, overwhelmed with emotion, then walks towards Hye Sung with complete focus and intensity, straight into a completely swoony, long-arms-wrapping-around-small-waist backhug.
Omo. The loping, intent way he just zooms in so deliberately, with Hye Sung as his one and only focal point, and beelines towards her like she is the only thing that matters in the world.. Swoon.Swoon.Swoon.Swoon.Swoon.
As tears fall from his eyes, Soo Ha manages to choke out, “…Your life is in danger again. How does my innocence come first? How?”
Gently, Hye Sung answers, “Thanks. For keeping your promise.” and she puts up her hand to pat him comfortingly on the head.
Aw. So much sweet. And so much swoon. Love. It.
Most Awesome Confession, Possibly Ever:
In episode 14, Soo Ha stands despondently outside Hye Sung’s closed door as she reels from the realization that Soo Ha had lied to her about not recovering his memories.
Outside Hye Sung’s door, he offers hesitantly, “I won’t ever look at your eyes again, ever. You can just use my eyes in court. And if… you don’t want that either… if you never want to see me again… I’ll do that too. Just let me stay by your side until Min Joon Gook is caught.”
Despite not getting an answer from Hye Sung except stony silence, Soo Ha makes good on the promise and escorts Hye Sung to work by trailing behind her all the way to the courthouse, all nervous and sad, averting his gaze at the drop of a hat.
After Hye Sung sends him off, she pauses, then turns towards him. Soo Ha hurriedly turns his back, which is so sad yet so adorable, that he’s trying so hard even though it hurts him to.
Hye Sung walks up to him and when Soo Ha turns around thinking she’s gone, he’s stunned to see her there, quickly averts his eyes, and says in the most heartbreakingly remorseful voice, “I didn’t look. Honest.” Aw, you sweet, poor, contrite boy.
Taking a deep breath, Hye Sung gently and resolutely takes his face in her hands, which, melt.
She then begins to make the most awesome confession, possibly in all of dramaland, “I like you, Soo Ha. As a brother. As a friend. And also… as a man.” Eeee!!
Hye Sung lets go of Soo Ha’s face, but looks him steadily in the eye and continues,
“Ever since I started liking you.. I’ve come to hate and fear your ability. Because I’m starting to have so many thoughts that I don’t want you to know about… Every time you catch me during one of my moments…
I feel like I’m going to come to resent you. When I think about those resentments could end up hurting you… it rips my heart into pieces. And even outside of that… there are so many other reasons why we can’t be together.
That’s why I believe that we have to put an end to our feelings.”
Soo Ha begins, “That’s..”
But Hye Sung cuts him off, saying,
“But even in spite of all that, I still like you. A lot. So… let’s not waste the time we have together by thinking about the end. Let’s look at each other in the face, and laugh when things are funny and always be honest with everything that we talk about.
Let’s spend our time that way. Okay?”
Soo Ha smiles adorably and nods slightly, “Mm.”
Hye Sung, satisfied, sends him off, “Okay, go on then.” And Soo Ha walks off, wearing the happiest, most adorable grin, ever.
AHHHH!!! When Soo Ha is happy, and gives that little bite-his-lip smile, my screen explodes with rainbows and unicorns. Seriously. SQUEEEE!!!
Soo Ha is now practically bursting with joy, and he runs back to Hye Sung, and picks her up until she’s towering over him, then reaches up and plants a kiss on her.
He beams, “Thanks. Thank you so much.”
And then he skips off grinning widely, turning back every couple of steps to look at Hye Sung.
Melt melt melt. I think Lee Jong Suk’s smitten face is a serious competitor for Gong Yoo’s smitten faces in Coffee Prince for the title of Most Adorable Smitten Face. And that’s saying a lot.
Soo Ha’s just adorably about to burst from all the surprised delight, and, watching him, I felt like I was about to burst from all the happy.
Coz happy Puppy makes me happy, and that’s the truth ❤
The hospital reunion scene in episode 17 is played almost wordlessly, yet is one of the most powerful OTP scenes of the entire show, I feel.
After Min Joon Gook is captured, both Soo Ha and Hye Sung are rushed to the hospital, each thinking the other quite possibly dead.
Soo Ha runs around the hospital like a mad man, breaking away from any and all staffers trying to get him treated, unable to focus on anything except to look wildly for Hye Sung.
The moment that he sees her, Soo Ha is overcome. You can practically see the waves of relief, emotion and tears just gush through him. He makes a beeline for Hye Sung, and they embrace, each just so very grateful that the other is alive. Tears.
Afterwards, Soo Ha and Hye Sung lie together on the hospital bed, talking, and the way Soo Ha looks at Hye Sung, with such loving, sweet wonder in his eyes, just turns my knees to mush.
I love too, how Soo Ha then pulls Hye Sung towards him and holds her close. The look of contentment on his face is quite priceless. All I can say is, awwww.
The Serious Kiss:
For all the awesome swoony that we get in this show, The Serious Kiss in episode 18 is, for me, pretty high up there on the swoon scale.
After Hye Sung’s blurted out her “I will wait for you” confession on the stairs, our OTP shares a few moments of cute, with little pecks on the lips and eskimo kisses and smiles.
And then, the look in Soo Ha’s eyes changes as he looks at her, and I’m a helpless puddle on the floor.
Such bedroomy eyes. Swooonn~~
And then he moves in for The Serious Kiss. Thunk.
Lots and Lots of Cute
I suppose it’s a happy problem that there is so much that’s squee-worthy in this show that I can’t possibly cover it all. But I’m gonna try to at least give a quick spotlight to some of my favorite bits of cute.
Such as this one, in episode 2, where Soo Ha rides the bus with Hye Sung, trying to suppress how pleased he is, and his glee, wonder & excitement. Ahhh!! I about exploded from the cute!
I love that Soo Ha fixed the light for Hye Sung, coz she was afraid of walking in the dark. How adorable and sweet is he?!? I LUFF THIS BOY. ❤
And then here, I love the way Soo Ha simply PICKS HER UP and PUTS HER OVER HIS SHOULDER. Just like that, so matter-of-factly.
Also, this is the point where I first noticed the hint of man that’s crept in there, in Lee Jong Suk, practically overnight. Eeee!! When did that happen? Coz I likey.
Another thing I found adorable was all the cute hand signals and secret looks in the court room. So cute!
I also loved all the little grabby scenes peppered through the show, and there were many, many of those. Bless your heart, Show.
Here’s one, where Soo Ha’s trying to grab his report card back from Hye Sung:
And here’s another, when Hye Sung jumps Soo Ha, thinking she saw a cockroach, which turns out to be watermelon seeds:
And here’s another one, where Soo Ha’s trying to grab his application to the police force out of Hye Sung’s hands:
In a skimpy tank-top baring nice broad shoulders too, no less. Very, very nice.
I also found this scene in episode 18 equal parts squee and cute.
When Hye Sung remarks that after Min Joon Gook’s capture, they now have no justification to live together, I love how Soo Ha leans in meaningfully towards her with a naughty glint in his eyes, saying, “There is justification..”
But Hye Sung stops his advances in their tracks with a foot to his chest. Ha. And aw.
Like I said, equal parts squee and cute.
And I love that the show manages to keep that balance quite excellently through most of the show.
Hye Sung & Mom
Hye Sung’s relationship with Mom is seriously one of my favorite relationships in the entire show.
On the surface, their relationship is all petty bickering and squabbling, but beneath the crotchety, gruff veneer that they adopt with each other, their faith and belief in each other runs intense and deep.
It’s moving, profound stuff, and their relationship is, at its heart, one of the most endearing mother-daughter relationships I’ve had the pleasure of coming across in all of dramaland.
All the cute, funny scenes of their aggravated affection, taking the form of peeved nagging and disgruntled whining, are just icing on the cake.
Pretty much right away, in episode 1, we get a sense of the strong sense of belief between mother and daughter.
When everyone believes Do Yeon’s accusation that Hye Sung was the one who injured her eye, Hye Sung cries to Mom and insists she didn’t do it.
Mom listens intently, and then pretty much immediately starts to defend Hye Sung to Judge Seo, despite the risk of losing both her job and the roof over their heads. Awesome Mom.
When Judge Seo’s chauffeur offers Mom an envelope of money, Mom hesitates, then takes it despite pleas from Hye Sung not to.
Upset, Hye Sung accuses Mom of not having any pride.
As it turns out though, Mom uses the money to buy a stack of a book written by Judge Seo, and proceeds to burn it all in front of his house.
Not only that, to his protests, Mom tells him right off, informing him that her daughter did nothing wrong. Awesome, awesome Mom.
It’s only after walking around the corner, out of sight, that Mom’s knees give way, betraying how nervous she had been the whole time.
Awesome, awesome, awesome Mom.
And from the tears in Hye Sung’s eyes as she hugs Mom, she knows that too. Aw. ❤
Ten years later, Hye Sung’s and Mom’s relationship is still as much cute as it is sweet.
There’s a little moment in episode 2, where Mom calls Hye Sung after Hye Sung’s had a troubling day at work. I love that even though Hye Sung doesn’t say anything, Mom just knows there’s something wrong, just from her voice. Aw.
I loved every Hye Sung-Mom scene, from Hye Sung telling Mom she now doesn’t want to get married, coz she’s the hidden gem in the legal field (heh), to Mom lying through her teeth, trying her darndest to set Hye Sung up on a blind date with Kwan Woo, to Mom getting mad with Hye Sung, then calming herself down, then yelling anyway, and over and over again. Hee.
The scenes that I found most moving, though, were scenes after Mom’s passing (Tears).
In episode 8, Hye Sung continues to wrestle with her conscience over having asked Do Yeon to put away Min Joon Gook for her mother’s murder, and to fabricate evidence if necessary.
Hye Sung puts her forehead to Mom’s while holding Mom’s picture close. She pleads with Mom, “I’m right this time too, right? Tell me that I am.”
Aw. Hye Sung’s wrestling so hard with her conscience. And we see in this moment, just how much Mom represents that sense of right and wrong, for her.
Shortly afterwards, Hye Sung hugs Mom’s picture to her chest, as she recalls Mum likening her to Bill Gates and Picasso whenever she does something remotely good.
Aw. How sweet is Mom? ❤ And how tragically poignant, that Hye Sung pines for her so?
What strikes me the most, about Hye Sung’s relationship with Mom, is how she carries on her relationship with Mom even long after Mom’s passing.
Like in episode 9, where we realize that Hye Sung still texts Mom on a regular basis, talking to her about all manner of things, from telling her about her cases, to updating her about the drama that Mom used to watch, to asking for advice and moping about having a cold and missing Mom’s kimchi.
Aw. How heartbreakingly sweet is that?
Perhaps one of the most bittersweet moments after Mom’s passing, is this moment in episode 14, when Hye Sung does her victorious strut after putting Judge Seo in his place.
As Hye Sung brightly puts the swag in her step, she thinks, “Jang Hye Sung, daebak. Mom, did you see that? Isn’t my charisma the best?”
Aw. How sweet is that, that Mom is the first person that Hye Sung turns to?
And yes, Mom would be proud.
Hye Sung & Do Yeon
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the frenemy-ship between Hye Sung and Do Yeon.
Their interactions, though often barbed, never truly feel malicious. Rather, their run-ins often have a harmless, petty schoolgirl rivalry sort of flavor to them that is more amusing than worrisome.
Although not one of the show’s major relationships, I enjoyed watching the show tease out the threads of friendship between Hye Sung and Do Yeon, from the checkered fabric of their baggage-full relationship.
When I consider the relationship between Hye Sung and Do Yeon, I’m actually a little surprised, that the show manages to take us from this kind of contentious competitiveness:
To this scene, of Do Yeon practically begging, “Hye-sung-ah, I-I-I feel like I’m going to die. Save me. Save my dad, please.”
And manages to make that transition feel not only unsurprising, but quite gratifying.
That’s pretty skillful and thoughtful writing right there, coz the relationship between Hye Sung and Do Yeon is a secondary arc in the drama, yet feels well-developed and faceted.
The most thought-provoking Hye Sung-Do Yeon scene, for me, is in episode 12, when the two women reluctantly drink together at a pojangmacha with Judge Kim (Kim Kwang Gyu) and Lawyer Shin.
Both tipsy from way too much soju, it’s only here, that we get to hear them say what’s really on their minds. And what a reveal it turns out to be: that Hye Sung had in fact lied in court all those years ago, and the fact that Do Yeon regretted that moment.
I found Do Yeon’s reason for hating Hye Sung tragically poignant: “Because you’re the witness to the most cowardly moment of my life. Because every time I see you… I’m reminded of that damned moment.”
Do Yeon continues,
“Ever since that day… I gave up on my art, and cut off all my friends… and studied nonstop to become a prosecutor. Because I wanted to show you and my father. I wanted to show both of you… that it wasn’t me at that moment. That it was a mistake.
That’s how I’ve… done everything I could to justify that moment in my life.”
Wow. That certainly puts Do Yeon in a different light.
In fact, I find this scene completely mind-bending AND believable.
Kudos, Show, for taking my understanding of both women, and turning both concepts completely on their heads in one swift motion. All while remaining extremely plausible and conceivable. Respect.
I love that thereafter, the two women inch towards a place of actual friendship, all while retaining the petty schoolgirl flavor in their interactions.
Even in episode 18, in the way they unite to talk over and ignore Judge Kim in the elevator, they are still petty schoolgirls at heart.
It’s pretty great how they essentially don’t change, even while they evolve their relationship into a very different sort of beast.
Hye Sung & Kwan Woo
Given that Kwan Woo is our second lead, his relationship with Hye Sung could have been written as way more two-dimensional, but the show chooses instead, to flesh it out to something meaningful, even amid the often amusing and comic bent of their interactions.
I enjoy the fact that Hye Sung and Kwan Woo interface not only as potential lovers, but as lawyers, each with very different approaches and methods. And as the show progresses, so does each person’s impact on the other.
We sorta always know that Kwan Woo’s never going to get the girl (this really isn’t a spoiler, if you’ve watched enough drama), but he gets to her in ways that she never expects him to. And that’s pretty cool.
Some of the interactions between Hye Sung and Kwan Woo are LOL-funny, and one of my favorites is this scene in episode 4, where Hye Sung starts to find Kwan Woo attractive after one drunken night.
The next day, when Kwan Woo asks if he still looks like a flower boy, Hye Sung snaps at him, “Get it together! Are you still drunk?”
But in the privacy of the bathroom, she thinks to herself, “I’ve gone crazy. My eyes have certainly gone crazy. Even though I’m now sober… and even though he’s wearing his glasses, he still looks handsome.” HA.
Her unconscious, puzzled attraction to Kwan Woo continues to be a bit of running gag in episode 5.
While in a discussion, Kwan Woo makes a reference which Hye Sung would ordinarily be upset about. She wonders to herself, “Why am I not angry? After my eyes went crazy, has my head gone crazy too?” And she reaches out to touch him on the cheek.
BWAHAHA! I love that Hye Sung gets so lost in her own thoughts that her actions start before her mind catches on. Kwan Woo’s shocked expression: priceless.
Hye Sung manages a save by turning the caress into a cheek pinch. And unsuspecting, trusting Kwan Woo completely buys it. Hur. He would.
I also found their jaunty good spirits in preparing for their (failed) first date pretty cute. I really liked how both Yoon Sang Hyun and Lee Bo Young preened for this with a distinctly comic touch.
After Kwan Woo gets Min Joon Gook acquitted for Hye Sung’s mother’s murder, however, their blossoming, quite textbook courtship never does recover from the blow.
When I say their romance is rather textbook, I mean it in the almost blind date sense. I feel like Kwan Woo appeared attractive to Hye Sung for all the textbook reasons: he’s the right age, single, has a stable job, and is of good character. Good husband material, at least on paper.
Which is probably why their blossoming courtship never stood a chance. Not against the blow of Kwan Woo getting her mother’s killer acquitted, and not against Hye Sung’s growing feelings for Soo Ha.
I do really like the direction that their relationship took thereafter, though.
I liked how they became reluctant partners in defending Soo Ha in episode 10 (well, she was reluctant anyway):
When a sore Do Yeon questions Hye Sung on how Mom would’ve felt about Hye Sung using her own mother’s murder to defend Soo Ha, Hye Sung puts on a brave front, but breaks down in tears in the bathroom, crying, “Mom, I was right, right? I did a good job, right?”
I found it touching, that Kwan Woo says nothing, but silently cries just as heartbreakingly outside.
I found it touching too, when in episode 12, Kwan Woo is strong and cheery for Hye Sung’s sake, agreeing to defend Soo Ha, then deflates on his own in his office, muttering to himself, “This is killing me.” Aw. Poor guy.
I am moved by just how much he puts himself out there, for Hye Sung’s sake. And in so doing, I feel like he teaches Hye Sung to be a better person and a better lawyer, by leading by example.
In episode 13, we witness both Hye Sung and Kwan Woo professing to other people that they have learned from each other. Hye Sung, to have more compassion, and Kwan Woo, not to rely simply on blind faith. It’s a meaningful inter-impact, albeit delivered in a way that feels a little pat and cheesy.
Perhaps one of the more significant moments between Hye Sung and Kwan Woo, is the moment in episode 14 when Hye Sung asks Kwan Woo if he had any conflicting thoughts about his decision to turn down the chance to work in a cushy private job in favor of being a public defense lawyer.
Kwan Woo smiles in response, “No, not at all. Because I always make my decision towards the side that I think is at least one percent more right than the other side of the decision.”
Hye Sung asks if he doesn’t regret the decision at all, and Kwan Woo answers readily, “That’s why that one percent is so important. Because if I had made the opposite decision, I’d be regretting it 1% more right now.”
And that’s when Hye Sung has an aha moment, “One percent is what’s important.’
As she takes a spin in her revolving door, Hye Sung thinks,
“Just like Attorney Cha… I have been making my decision towards the direction that I thought to be 1% more right. And I have always regretted my decisions. I still regret having opened that door to the courtroom.
Because if I hadn’t opened that door, none of this misery would’ve started. But…”
As Hye Sung remembers So Yeon’s deep regret for not testifying that day, Hye Sung realizes, “This is the first time that I’ve thought of it this way. If I had made the other decision at that moment… then perhaps I’d be regretting that even more right now. Maybe one percent more.”
And that evening, when Soo Ha lets go of Hye Sung’s hand thinking that she wouldn’t like the trailing detectives to see them holding hands, she says, “Not anymore. I’ve decided not to hate it anymore. You’re one percent more in the right direction.” Aw!!
Yes, it is rather cheesy and quite pat, but I forgive the writers, for the emotional satisfaction that this 1% theory brings us.
Not only does Kwan Woo help Hye Sung to finally see her past decision that she’s regretted a thousand times in a positive light, he helps her to see her present and her future in a different light too. And I like that.
Hye Sung returns the favor in episode 18, when she defends Kwan Woo’s decision to defend Min Joon Gook yet again, even before Kwan Woo has a chance to explain his rationale to her.
I just love the look of affectionate gratitude on Kwan Woo’s face. (And doesn’t Yoon Sang Hyun look quite swoony in this screencap?)
By the time we leave Hye Sung and Kwan Woo at the end of the show, they have finally settled into a friendship where they eagerly bond over their excitement and anxiety over going to court, and it’s cute and affirming and quite satisfying to behold.
Soo Ha & Kwan Woo
As love rivals, Soo Ha and Kwan Woo get into jealousy hijinks that range from the amusing to the heartwrenching.
As with so many of the relationships in this show, this relationship also evolves in heartwarming ways. Yes, at times, it can seem a little cheesy, but the payoff is so satisfying that I willingly overlook the cheese.
From the early episodes of the show, one might get the idea that Kwan Woo’s presence in the show is simply to make Soo Ha jealous, coz we get the cute scenes like this one in episode 7, where Soo Ha is repulsed and mortified while watching the flirtations between Hye Sung and Kwan Woo:
When Lawyer Cha comments that he and Hye Sung are wearing matching clothes, Soo Ha mutters to himself, “Maybe I should’ve worn something else instead of my school uniform.”
And then Soo Ha actually ditches his school uniform the next day. Hilarious! And very cute!
We also get the angsty jealousy scenes like this one, where Soo Ha realizes how much it hurts to see Hye Sung with another man:
Oof. Those kinds of moments really hurt to watch. But in a good way.
Even though it’s funny how Soo Ha gets all annoyed and snarky whenever Kwan Woo appears, and never speaks to Kwan Woo in jondae-mal, we soon see that Soo Ha genuinely feels threatened by Kwan Woo, or at least, troubled by his presence.
We see Soo Ha desperately trying to match up to Kwan Woo’s grown-up-ness in episode 12, when Soo Ha meets Kwan Woo in a suit and insists on paying Kwan Woo’s retainer fee, so that Hye Sung won’t have a reason to feel indebted to Kwan Woo. Aw.
Declining to accept Soo Ha’s offer, Kwan Woo tells him, “Wearing a suit doesn’t make you an adult. You’re a high school dropout, a murder suspect with no memory, no future. That’s why Hye Sung is taking you in. Don’t mistake that for something else.”
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, and even Kwan Woo himself regrets saying the words, but these issues continue to weigh on Soo Ha’s mind.
When Kwan Woo offers to help cover up the truth about Soo Ha’s dad in episode 15, Soo Ha retaliates with an outburst,
“Just why are you doing this for me?… I know that you like Attorney Jang, too. So, why do you keep helping me? Are you trying to show off to me right now? That you’re a good person, with a good job, parents and an adult who has everything?
Are you showing off and trying to tell me that I can’t even compare to you?”
Kwan Woo decks Soo Ha in the jaw, and responds,
“Park Soo Ha. Get your head on straight. Because the more you act out like that, the more pathetic that makes me seem.
Attorney Jang didn’t even give me a chance, and she chose you. So, stop being so anxious and show me why she chose you. Because based on the way you’re acting right now… I can’t understand why she chose you.”
Oof. Another hard lesson. But Soo Ha takes it to heart, and throws himself into investigating the letters that Min Joon Gook keeps sending.
Instead of fighting with Kwan Woo, Soo Ha speaks civilly and calmly, telling Kwan Woo, “I have to know what Min Joon Gook is planning so I can protect her.”
Aw. What good progress, that he’s able to put aside his own pride in order to protect Hye Sung.
I particularly love the moment in episode 18 when Soo Ha says to Kwan Woo: “Thank you.”
Kwan Woo blinks, “For what?”
Soo Ha continues,
“For everything. I know how much you like Attorney Jang. I know that all the help you’re giving me is all for Attorney Jang’s sake. I know that you’re a man of amazing character that I can’t even dream to match up to.
Even though it irks me, I’ll acknowledge it. You’re a very good man. Enough for me to feel bad that Attorney Jang chose me over you.”
And Soo Ha’s even using jondae-mal. Aw.
I love how Kwan Woo effectively helps Soo Ha to become a bigger man, despite them both loving the same woman. Kwan Woo’s really like the hyung that Soo Ha never had, in that sense. And I love that the writers took us there.
Lawyer Shin & Hwang Dal Joong
Although one of the secondary relationships in the show, I actually found myself having a soft spot for the friendship between Lawyer Shin and Hwang Dal Joong.
I love that their friendship spans a wide range of emotion: from casual banter over kpop Bingo, to deep thoughts about the meaning of life.
I found some of the moments between these two men completely moving.
The moment that stands out the most for me, is in episode 16, after Hwang Dal Joong has been acquitted.
Standing in the hallway of the courthouse, Lawyer Shin asks Hwang Dal Joong if he isn’t angry, and Dal Joong answers that he’s already forgiven Judge Seo.
Dal Joong explains,
“I don’t have much time left to live. I don’t want to spend what little time I have left to live on hating someone. The very last emotion that I feel before I die… I don’t want it to be such an ugly emotion such as that.
That’s why I forgave him. I’m not forgiving Judge Seo Dae Suk because I think he’s a great person.”
The truth, dat. That forgiving someone heals the self more than the forgiven.
Wordlessly, Lawyer Shin puts his forehead to Hwang Dal Joong’s, and just holds their heads together, for that moment.
So poignant. And such a profound and powerful moment, really. Chills.
In a nutshell, there were things that the writers did really, really well in this show, and then there were things that were really, really lame.
So what did the writers do well? By far, it was the development of characters and relationships. Written by the same writer as Dream High (I love Dream High!), we can see the same loving touch treating the large cast of characters in both shows.
What’s interesting to me, is that Dream High has an ensemble cast, and in IHYV, we have more of a love triangle sort of set-up.
While most writers would choose to focus most of their energies on developing the central characters in a typical love triangle set-up, I find that the way the character development is treated here, is akin to how an ensemble cast is treated.
As with Dream High, so many of the characters in IHYV get fleshed out and are given meaningful arcs and backstories.
And it’s all skillfully done too. The character development arcs are woven seamlessly into our narrative such that it never feels jarring, and yet, without even really realizing it, we come to know our characters as people, and come to actually care about them.
The Not Good
Often, a LOT of suspension of disbelief is needed from the viewer in order to continue enjoying the show.
Some moments are outright head-scratchers, and a large chunk of that has to do with the cartoonish law that seems to be practiced in this world.
A lot of things that wouldn’t fly in the real world become critical pivot points for our narrative, so that as an audience, we have no choice but to grit our teeth and swallow it all, if we want to continue to enjoy the story.
And we do want to enjoy the story, for the sake of our very well-drawn characters.
And that’s why it often felt frustrating and, well, dumb, considering the kinds of things we were expected to believe.
There were so many instances where I went Huh? while watching this show.
But I will highlight just one. And that is how Soo Ha gets prosecuted for Min Joon Gook’s murder when there is no evidence of a body.
I mean, the accusation that he mutilated the body, just coz there’s a hand? Um. Have these people never seen pirates before? Or, y’know, yakuza? Those are proof that you can be perfectly alive even with just the one hand.
The logic of this case doesn’t sound right to me, and I’m not even in the legal profession. How do the police determine the time window of the supposed murder when there is no body???
And THEN. The Big Reveal – that the defense believes that Min Joon Gook is alive! – which is done so dramatically, is just really, really, really lame. DUH. Of COURSE Min Joon Gook could still be alive. Coz there never was a body.
To have spent a whole episode pretending to ignore the ginormous pink elephant in the room feels like a huge waste of time, and worse, an insult to the intelligence of ALL the characters AND us as viewers.
Despite the weaknesses, though, I have to say that there were many instances of thoughtful writing in IHYV, and the emotional engagement we experience with the characters is truly impressive.
The show is moving and satisfying in so many moments. And the show itself is tied up in an uplifting way that doesn’t focus completely on the romance, but gives the spotlight to personal character and growth, and that feels good.
There is just so much heart oozing out of this show, that one can’t help but forgive the weaknesses, glaring as some of them may be.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Not only cracktastic in some of the best ways, but it gets you, right in the heart. And then won’t let go.
Squeeing out loud required.
FINAL GRADE: A+
My favorite track from the OST, hands-down. It manages to be gentle, breezy and sexy all at once. Love. It.
Another of my favorite tracks; an acoustic, slightly wistful, slower version of its faster, peppier cousin. Lovely.
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out this show on Viki here. It’s also available on Viu here.
GETTING AROUND GEO-RESTRICTIONS
If you’re geo-restricted, a VPN service would help you get around that. Not only does it provide online safety, it also gives you access to lots of great geo-restricted content.
I personally use NordVPN. You can find my review of NordVPN here.
You can use my affiliate link (here!) to enjoy up to 60% * off, with prices starting as low as US$3.29 per month.
* This used to say 73%, but because NordVPN’s changed the way it calculates the discount, it now says 60%. BUT, it’s the same great price, starting from US$3.29 a month!
An article on why it’s not illegal to use a VPN to access legal streaming content can be found here.
I watched this show in the beginning of the year and I am rewatching it now, because Min Jun Guk is such an impactful character in this show. You might not believe it but Jung Woong In’s acting skill was so good that Min Jun Guk gave me so many nightmares during the period of time. Now I’m watching the show again I’m getting goosebumps and chills down my spine whenever I see him on screen, and my nightmares about Min Jun Guk are back… Jung Woong In really did act out Min Jun Guk really really well, he brought out Min Jun Guk’s eerie very well, and even though I don’t feel sympathy towards him, I do understand why he acted so hostile and became a serial killer. Not saying that his crimes are justified though, but I’m able to see the side of the story from Min Jun Guk thanks to the great acting. For real Min Jun Guk is really the main reason why I remembered this drama so much, apart from Lee Jong Suk HHAHAH
Afterglow after watching the series and reading your review I’m feeling warm and cozy. Love your term “cracktastic” as that’s how this show played out for me. It was so engaging and entertaining; all of your points are carefully thought out–thank you!
Ah, I’m glad you enjoyed the show, and this review, Su San!! I really did love this one a lot, when I watched it! So glad you felt the same! ❤️
I don’t care what backstory they gave Joon Gook I felt no sympathy for him, yes it’s sad his wife died, but he didn’t need to kill Soo Ha’s father he didn’t need to try to kill Soo Ha who was a child and he definitely didn’t need to kill Hye Sung’s mother who was nothing but nice to him and gave him a job and made him seaweed soup on his birthday and he didn’t need to kill the fruit woman, none of his Murders were justified. So that character gets zero sympathy or pity from me.
Hey there! I finally FINALLY finished this show a while ago but didn’t get to writing to now. I’ll keep it short cos it’s late but I must say I really really really liked this one! And that’s not expected because I’m not a big fan of noona romances and I certainly do not like serial killer stories (just.. why??!!) I really only watched this because it has been recommended to me so many times by so many people.
And now that I’ve finished it, I see why! The heartfelt earnestness… the way characters are so well written (I love how everyone has been made sympathetic and understandable. Even Min Joon Gook!!!) And speaking of him, his quest to prove that anyone would’ve done the same as him was unexpected and was rather well done in my opinion. And Lee Bo Young is so relatable and hilarious! So many dramas have Candy girls but she is so petty and extra and I. love. it. And how can I not mention Lee Jong Suk?! How much love can I have for this man child?! ♥️♥️♥️♥️ a million hearts for him wouldn’t be enough. And that theme of unconditional love and acceptance – so so good. Urgh. How can I get me a Soo Ha? haha. And Kwan Woo was so much more than a token second lead.. as was Do Yeon… so well done.
Of course there were things that I didn’t quite like – like you said the law scenes and police work were of the roll-eyes variety and some of the themes were so heavy handed. But this show serves up so much heart and goodness that I didn’t mind. Heh.
I feel I’m been on a pretty good drama streak! Healer, this, and now on When The Devil Calls Your Name because, JKH and PSW?! Forever love. (Just ignoring the wreck of When My Love Blooms in the middle, lol).
Hope you’re doing good! Clearly I can’t write short comments.
Just some things I’ve been wondering and wonder if you would wanna address then (if no time or not keen, feel free to disregard):
1) Would you say that your list of favourites (I know you’ve got a page with your favourite shows) changes? Is that list there still updated or do you have new favourites? What makes a show enter your list of favourites vs just being A-grade ones?
2) I recall in 2019 (I think?) end year post you said you may not give some dramas such high ratings anymore but you can’t go back and rewrite your reviews. One possible way is to add a post-script note to say this was my rating back then but now I would rate it as X for the following reasons. A one-liner would do – may take away the discomfort of having people watch shows based on your high grading in the past, without too much work? Something to consider!
3) What shows have FLs that are relatable? Lately I get tired of watching candy girls with sad life stories yet are so cheery (I mean who would be so cheery if they had such a hard life!?) I would love to watch shows with relatable female leads who have their good and bad days and grow through the bad days! I’m asking about female leads coz you did something similar for male leads.
4) Another idea for a Dear Fangurl post – would you want to do a list of shows that you love but are often passed over or neglected / underrated? Cos every year there are so many new shiny shows but there are so many good ones that pass under the radar because of low ratings or are older etc. This could be a love note or shoutout to them.
Ok finally I’m done. Thanks so much for reading this and take care!
oops ignore 3), realise you’ve got a list of female leads that i can check out! heh.
Amazing review, thank you so much !!
please watch and review Pinocchio too
Thanks so much for this review. There are so many things wrong with this show (from the odd morality explored so well a couple reviews down to odd pacing choices and the villain who wanted to make some elaborate moral statement – who does that?) but they don’t really keep it from being great. Even “amnesia is extremely common in capitalist countries” to quote our favorite drama loving North Korean soldier from CLOY.
One of very best parts is how Soo Ha responds to his powers. He can hear everyone’s thoughts and what does he do with it? Make big money playing poker? Become a super salesman or con artist? Pick up girls? Nope, he develops compassion for people at his school who are suffering and tries to quietly help them. So good – and it’s believable that if you could really hear mental screaming from the outcasts at school, maybe you would respond this way. Maybe you would get the humanity of others more and be more willing to help and forgive if you heard thoughts. Great choice. You could have a great show just taking this premise and running with it. Kind of wish they had hit this more in the start of the show, since it was such an interesting take.
And the power ends up driving some of the plot but never turning into this wild card that solves all his problems – it solved a few minor ones at the start, but nothing essential. Even when he lost his powers, it wasn’t really necessary, they weren’t helping him all that much anyway. And the powers provided this interesting complication, good and bad with Hye Sung. And made certain leaps in the noona relationship perhaps more believable (paradoxically) than otherwise.
Super curious what you think about “While you were sleeping”. Similar fantasy/crime/romance with LGS but not quite as good IMO. And if anyone wants to see LGS still chasing older women (without any killers messing things up), I highly recommend Romance is a bonus book!
Show’s still great in 2020!
Hi Eric, thanks so much for enjoying this review! 😀 I love your observation, that how Soo Ha responded to his powers, was a noble choice. Someone lesser could’ve – and probably would’ve – used the same powers for evil, but Soo Ha used them to help those who are suffering. That’s such a moving insight – thank you for sharing! ❤️
I actually haven’t seen While You Were Sleeping.. I did sample a bit of E1, but I was rather thrown by how similar WYWS felt to this show, and opted not to continue. I’ve heard good things about it though, so I might go back to sometime, just to experience it for myself. I do concur that Romance is a Bonus Book is great though! 😀
Just finished watching this drama. I liked it very much. I thought that the legal stuff required some suspension of disbelief, but I loved the characters. Lee Jong Suk was so dreamy in this role. I also like Lawyer Cha. Music was also very good.
Aw, I’m glad you ended up enjoying this one, Snow Flower! 😀 Yes, suspension of disbelief is required, but the characters are engaging and lovable – and this was the first time I thought Lee Jong Suk was dreamy, so that was a plus for me! 😉
Yes, this is was one of my favorite dramas.
I loved how ridiculously self-confident the FL was. Truly amusing. Whereas with a less endearing personality, it would merely be annoying.
Thank you for the great review. I have just binged this entire show and I loved it and found your blog after searching for what others thought of this show. I loved it. I disagree with you about Lee Jong-suk being the better actor in comparison to Lee Boyoung. As I have also seen “While you were Sleeping”, I think the quality of Lee Jong-suk acting depends wholly on the quality of the female lead, and so believe Lee Boyoung lifted him here, whilst Suzy dragged him down in “While You Were Sleeping”. Saying that, I do agree he was great in this, I just think Lee Boyoung gave the better performance.
I loved the romance between the two leads. It never really felt undeserved. I do not mind the Cinderella/Pride & Prejudice romantic tropes that seem pervasive in the vast majority of KDramas BUT I love the romantic tropes of [a] two broken people finding each other and using each other to grow; and [b] the older sister/younger brother style affection (non-incesty) that transitions into romance and I feel both tropes were well done here. I also loved the friendships in this show, especially the prickly friendship that developed between the two female leads and I loved that that friendship had nothing to do with asking for advice about a romantic partner but about a growing respect and trust for each other’s abilities and character.
Rewatching this after watching so many noona stories the past year. This drama still remains to be one of, if not THE BEST Noona KDrama there is! The leads have a huge 10-year age gap and one is even shown as a high school student, but you will never see it negatively in the 18 episodes of this show. There were no judgmental character in this show who looked at them with disdain nor gossiped about their age gap. The leads also never made us feel awkward with their age gap in all of their scenes. They looked so natural together from episode 1 to 18.
Didn’t expect to love this drama before since I wasn’t fan of the leads and used to avoid their shows. But, this show made me change my mind about them. Thanks for your detailed review which captures the gems in this show.
*Sheepish* I shouldn’t be admitting I watched this, as you gave me a robust list of recommended dramas to view and this wasn’t on it. For the record, that list was created around my crazy criteria at the time, and I have the feeling if I hadn’t been so particular, you would have definitely included this. I came across IHYV because I enjoyed “Healer” so much that I did an internet search shortly thereafter for “Shows like “Healer””. This ended up being one of three frequently-recommended shows in the forums I found, so I gave it a whirl.
All I can say is that your reviewing prowess is largely responsible for why I find myself managing to look back on this show with any discernible fondness. I’ve said before that I think differing perspectives are a good thing when presented respectfully, and that presentation of an altered perspective is the main reason I’m writing this. Sometimes when I discuss movies in depth with friends, there comes a point where they just blink a few times and say, “Well damn. Thanks for ruining that for me”. However, after reading your review and much of the discussion afterwards, I am confident and secure in my belief that your immense love and appreciation for this show will in no way be diminished or eroded by my comments. And so I proceed!
I think my biggest issue with the series ultimately comes down to its perspective on morality, the degree to which it emphasizes that perspective, and the small details that derailed my ability to align with what the show was trying to say. The most glaring theme presented was, “If you kill someone–even a murderer–you become a monster”. It’s is a very simplistic way of looking at something as complex as taking a life. It eliminates context and disregards the internal nuances of motive and intention in favor of focusing on very base external similarities. Someone who kills as an extension of self-defense has a drastically different state of mind, perception of humanity, emotional stability, and moral compass than someone who kills out of greed or bloodlust. While I do agree that actions have great meaning (more so than words) and can indicate a lot about a person, it is fallacious to think they are all that defines them.
A person who gives out of guilt or obligation is not charitable, and a parent who disciplines out of love is not cruel.
Disregarding the heart may be necessary when it comes to the law because the law cannot discern something so hidden and profound. But when it comes to how people see each other, particularly in a relationship, discarding it as a factor is egregious. It is for that reason that I had a hard time enjoying a good portion of this series. I don’t mind hearing it in the courtroom, but the characters said it to each other repeatedly, and each time it was mentally grating.
Good writing makes the writer invisible, whereas poor choices make it obvious that events and situations are being manipulated by an external force. In the case of this series, there were both significant and subtle choices that were probably well-intentioned but made it difficult for me to calibrate.
The writing decision that hurt the story and its message the most was making Min Joon Gook an active killer. That sounds absurd to say, as it is the central source of drama and tension for the series, but it’s a broken premise for delivering the message. You can tell a story about forgiveness and forsaking revenge. I can side with a character who says that killing out of hatred will turn you into a monster. I can relate to the conflict in someone who wants justice, is bitter about the law’s failure to provide that justice, and is fighting within themselves to not pursue justice on their own. That’s one heck of a journey–one that a long series like this can embark on and successfully see to completion. But when you muddy the water and blur the line between killing out of hatred/revenge and killing to protect someone you love, your story has lost its way.
I knew the series was in trouble (for me) when Jang Hye Sung makes Park Soo Ha promise not to kill Min Joon Gook. At first she asks him not to kill out of revenge. I’m tracking. We’re good. Both PSH and I agree on that. But then he asks the question that instantly came to my mind: “What if he tries to kill you?” I was waiting for her to say, “We’ll deal with that when the time comes”, or “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that”, or “Only if there’s no other way”. Something, anything rational. But she essentially says, “I can take care of myself”, which even that early in the series we know is not the case. Basically she is saying, “I would rather get brutally murdered by the man who killed your father and my mother rather than have you end his life to save me”. And that’s where I just paused the video and stared at the screen for like five minutes. Really, Show? REALLY? That’s the line we’re gonna take on this?! I finally hit “play” and kept watching, hoping this very simplistic, naive perspective would mature over time, but it never did.
In all of his powerful, wrathful explosions, Park Soo Ha never says to Min Joon Gook, “You killed my father! You killed him, you bastard, and now you’re gonna pay!” His fury and desperate violence all stemmed from his fierce desire to protect Jang Hye Sung. It was never about revenge for him, or if it was, it was never expressed as such. While the show tries to say that Park Soo Ha didn’t become a monster like Min Joon Gook because he had Jang Hye Sung to keep him from committing murder, I would say that even if PSH had killed MJG, it was his love and and desire to protect JHS that would have kept him from becoming a monster afterwards. That has resonance. That’s why police officers and soldiers aren’t monsters (well, some of them are, but as a whole they aren’t generally perceived as such). They do it out of a duty and desire to protect. Ignoring that distinction undercut my ability to relate to the theme and made the characters seem very foolish–particularly when the police are portrayed as grossly inept to the point of being comedic relief.
In fact, the show undercuts its own message in the courtroom! There’s a case where a woman is being tried for stabbing her husband, and JHS claims it was done in self-defense. When the argument is presented that the woman should have run and called for help instead of reacting in such a violent manner, JHS shows a video that proves there was no help to be had from either the cops (too far away) or the neighbors (too passive). It is because of this that the self-defense argument works. So when the show makes it clear that the law failed to protect JHS, the cops are bumbling buffoons who can’t protect her, and no one else even believes she’s in danger, what option is left? How much evidence is needed to prove malicious intent? And when a criminal who was found guilty of brutally murdering a man with a frigg’in steel pipe is released, what is the reassurance that nailing him with attempted murder is going to keep him away from JHS with any certainty?
Only at the very end of the series does a formidable, viable law enforcement presence appear to apprehend MJG, and even then they only succeed because at that point he wasn’t trying to escape or get away with murder–he was just waiting to be killed. So up to to that point, JHS and PSH were expected to wait for MJG to attack, then hope the two PD clowns would show up in time to prevent the killing AND catch the elusive killer?
C’mon now. For real?
I won’t belabor the point any further. The central premise has to work. Maybe the writer was going for subtle shades of gray and moral ambiguity, but if you’re going to present a complex conundrum with motives that bleed into each other, you have to acknowledge (and preferably utilize) solutions that are equally ambiguous. Presenting a challenging problem with a black-and-white, simplistic solution that only works because of plot armor and obvious narrative manipulation isn’t compelling. I can appreciate JHS and company not wanting PSH to kill MJG to protect his mental health. Most sane human beings have a hard time coping with taking a life, regardless of the reason. A mother can push an assailant away from her child, but if that push somehow results in the assailant’s death, the mother will probably still have trauma and some measure of regret. Even without malice or intent, taking a life has significant consequences. I get that. But would the mother rather have let her child been assaulted, kidnapped or killed instead?
The series talks about the “1% rule”, which I think is a great principle. Yes, killing MJG would have had an averse impact on PSH, but for our plucky hero, that option was at least 1% better than waiting for (essentially allowing) MJG to kill the woman he loves. Not a great solution, but better than the alternative. Coming to grips with both consequences is interesting and really makes you think. Is living in fear or taking the extra risks involved in trying to capture a violent killer (as opposed to killing him) more important than having his death on your conscience? I’m willing to watch characters grapple with questions like that. But I can’t accept the premise that killing to protect automatically makes someone a monster who should be shunned and reviled by everyone.
Aside from that signifiant hiccup, there are a couple smaller details that took me out of the emersion process. First, MJG was supposedly only seeking revenge against PSH’s father for killing his wife. While the “killing” is indirect and isn’t malicious, it is born of selfishness and a disregard for another’s life, so I get it. Though I hated MJG for most of the series, I was able to conjure some modicum of sympathy for him once I discovered his tragic backstory. UNTIL I remembered that he was going to bash 7-year-old PSH to death with a pipe before younger JHS distracted him. Why add that to the story? It doesn’t mesh with MJG’s motivation at all, particularly when he later tells grown-up PSH that he has no intention of killing him–he just wants revenge on the girl who put him away. Why did he want to kill PSH as a kid but has no animus towards him later? It’s a minor addition that seems shoehorned into the story because JHS needed to save PSH’s life somehow. It also was needed to give the girls something to witness and to ostensibly take a picture of. The plot strings are painfully obvious, and character integrity suffers for the sake of narrative necessity.
To a lesser extent, I would say that the kind, pre-wife-dying MJG doesn’t match up with the “I’m going to strangle you, little girl, and threaten your life like a madman!” MJG we see during his initial trial. I understand him being out of his mind with rage, furious enough to commit a crime of passion. But once that passion ebbed and he had weeks to calm down and process, I see him being more resigned to his fate. “I did what I needed to do to get justice. My wife can rest in peace. I’ll take responsibility.” That’s the attitude of a kind-hearted-but-devastated husband and father. The point wasn’t to commit a crime and get away with it. The point was to get some kind of justice for what happened to his wife. For this widower to lose his mind like a rabid dog and try to kill a little girl when his hatred was only supposed to be directed at PSH’s father was a bit jarring. His reaction was more like that of a serial killer who enjoys killing, is furious that his masterful plan was thwarted by a child, and vows to continue killing again, starting with her. Again, it’s an attempt to try and make him sympathetic as well as menacing, and I don’t think there’s a way to pull that off.
The only other detail that seemed forced was showing how no one gave a fig about what happened to MJG and his wife after she died. I mean there was no compassion, no investigation, no question, nothing. We’re just supposed to believe that something like that happened and everyone was just a stone wall and there was no legal recourse. (For as much talk as there was about frivolous assault lawsuits, the notion that there was no lawyer willing to even press civil charges for the heart transplant debacle is hard to swallow.) The narration said he didn’t have anyone to help him, but I guess it meant he didn’t have a significant other to help him, because he at least had his mother and his son. They died when he was in prison, if I recall. So where were they when his wife passed away? He had people in is life who loved him, and who he apparently loved (unless he really didn’t care that they died and just used them as an excuse) in return. Why wasn’t that enough? It just felt like the story went out of its way to make him a super awesome dad/husband/worker who was beat down by the entire world with no one to love or help him, driving him to the only viable option for dealing with the injustice of it all. Even his wife’s final moments seemed contrived. I think this is the first time in a Kdrama that the dying person is screaming that they don’t want to die and begging their spouse to save them. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen in real life, or that it’s unreasonable for his wife to be that way. But when its obvious that a scene is supposed to make the audience feel a certain way, I think giving it some subtlety makes it easier to accept.
So there’s that. Then there are the absolutely ludicrous courtroom shenanigans that you alluded to. As soon as JHS took a call during the proceedings, I was done. Maybe the rules are different in Korea, but the use of electronic devices is forbidden in US courtrooms. The fact that a lawyer casually took a call and later on asks–nay, demands–to see the judge’s copy of the law book made me laugh…until I realized that I was supposed to take it seriously.
There was no attempt made to make the proceedings anything close to those in real life. That’s fine if there’s only like one or two brief court scenes, but when they comprise a decent chunk of the story and contain some of the more crucial plot points, I think it’s important that they at least try to achieve some semblance of accuracy. But they were bad enough to be farcical, which meant I had no desire to watch them. The whole appeal of watching a court case in a movie or TV show is to see how the brilliant and/or courageous attorneys navigate the legal system. Without that, it’s just people talking in front of people wearing robes. I pretty much skimmed through those scenes to get to the verdicts, because that was really all that mattered. There were brief moments of emotional resonance, particularly in Hwang Dal Jong’s hearing, but for the most part all the good stuff happened outside the courthouse. Not a great statement to make pertaining to a story about lawyers.
As I write this, it occurs to me that there is a bigger, overarching source from which all my woes issue. Don’t know why I didn’t see it earlier. The hook for this series is that a guy can hear someone’s thoughts by looking into their eyes. It’s bizarre. It’s a super power. It’s not a rare medical thing or even a surreal talent like mentalism. It’s an out-of-this-world ability. How in the world can I put expectations of realism on a show when that is its premise? Without that power, our two leads die, either at the beginning of the story or later on when MJG comes after them. The story isn’t meant to be true to life. It’s a moral mural that uses broad strokes to create a swath of ideals that are inherently exaggerated. Art is a reflection of reality, which means there are varying degrees of reality in each piece of work. This is simply a work that has the elements of reality in it, but their composition is decidedly abstract.
Wow. Well, it only took a few hundred words to get to that epiphany, so I’m gonna call it good. 🙂
I think my only other primary issue with the series was too much time spent hating. There’s only been one other show I recall feeling a similar amount of animosity towards a plot or character; it got so bad that I had to stop watching it. It was called “Pinocchio”, and not coincidentally was written by the same person. I just can’t handle hateful people. Don’t like ’em in real life, have no interest in watching them vomit on other characters in my entertainment. In IHYV, we had Min Jun Gook, Seo Dae Seok, and for a brief but utterly infuriating moment, Do Yeon’s mother. They weren’t prominent enough to kill the show for me, but I was grinding my teeth more often than I should be while watching something I’m supposed to be enjoying. Angst and heartache I can deal with. Cheese, I can deal with. Characters who seem to embody nothing but the despicable, loathsome sides of humanity are beyond my will or desire to tolerate. IHYV pushed that threshold about as far is it could go.
All that said, I do agree with your statement that the characters are amazing, and their relationships are what give this series its charm. I mean, aside from the courtroom stuff, I watched the whole thing in two days. I have dropped some shows after 20 minutes, so this obviously has something that works for me. I think it’s the fact that its faboo characters and relational interactions permeate the entirety of the series whereas the moralistic preachings and courtroom debacles merely pepper each episode.
This is where the writer’s propensity for ambiguity really shines, because I see personality as a mix of various vapors and gasses constantly mingling, reconstituting, and swirling, instead of being well-defined pieces of a puzzle. In a certain situation, a strength carried to excess becomes a liability, and it is a completely different aspect of someone’s character that determines how quickly the adjustment to that shift happens and how it is expressed. The fact that all the characters in this show have a moderate baseline with a great deal of flux makes them engaging and exciting to watch.
Kwan Woo had probably the most profound changes and growth. The fact that I went from liking him, to hating him, to liking him a lot more speaks volumes as to how well he was written and portrayed. He manages to change completely and yet not change at all. Hard to describe (beyond what you said, of course, which I 100% agreed with).
I went back and forth on how Jang Hye Sung was presented. At first I was thrilled that what seemed like acts born from nobility and courage were actually motivated primarily through pride and bitterness–albeit with an underlying sense of rightness. It gave her a great place to grow from and made her so very human. The right thing for the wrong reasons in the courtroom, then perhaps the wrong thing for the right reasons regarding the fireworks incident. I was glad she wasn’t an angel in her youth and only became jaded by age. Ultimately I think she had just a bit too much unlikeableness (for lack of an actual word)–or she held onto it too long. For most of the series she was a twit about 75% of the time. Knock that down to 60-65% and I think we’re in business.
As for the rest, I think once again you’ve done a wonderful job highlighting their qualities. There was lots to love in those relationships and the depths of characterization. Reading your review reminded me of that, and made me realize why I watched the show to its end. I think what derailed me at the last minute was when PSH and JHS were discussing MJG’s sentencing in the last episode. If they were okay with either the life sentence or the death penalty, I would have been fine. To show that the characters aren’t out for blood, despite all MJG did, is a good thing. Shows growth, forgiveness, and a lack of resentment. But to have them actually be against the death penalty struck me as disingenuous and unnecessarily heavy-handed. There are plenty of people in this world who have lost loved ones to murderers and have not killed in return. There are many who have suffered loss and not received justice. For PSH and JHS to say that MJG should not be executed just because they might have done the same thing is a very detached perspective. Ultimately it just reminded me of one of the big issues I had with the show, and there was little afterwards to remind me of the reasons I liked it.
I must add that I think a noteworthy chunk of disparity in perception regarding this show comes from the fact that I’m a dude. As such, I didn’t enjoy watching Lee Jong Suk to the extent that many people seemed to. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a stellar actor and he played a well-written character admirably, but I had to watch this show without the benefit of being mesmerized by his charm and charisma. 🙂 There was a lot of emphasis placed on him in the review, and I wonder if I would see the series differently if my focus had been able to be more fixed on a character. I think Lee Bo Young is a great actress who is also very pretty, but as I said before, I found her character to be a little too off-putting most of the time for me to get that golden character crush phase. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that the perceived quality of the show is inflated due to character infatuation–that’s an unfair statement to make. I just wonder whether I have stumbled across a divergence of perception generated by a difference in sex, personal beliefs, or simply as a matter of taste.
As a final note, I did like how you and Lady G discussed PSH’s ability to see all of JHS’s thoughts and still love her wholly and unconditionally. A bit far-fetched for human capacity, but then again so is being able to hear thoughts. 🙂 It’s a beautiful sentiment though, along with functional forgiveness, the abandonment of pride, and the willingness to change.
Ah yes. Remembering the good stuff…
Heh. Y’know, Jesse, I think one of the reasons this show suffered so much in your eyes, is because you were actively looking for “something like Healer” – and this definitely wasn’t it. If you’ve seen my other response to your comment on the Healer thread, I do think that Healer is a hard act to follow. So, from the get-go, I do think IHYV was at a disadvantage, at least where you were concerned.
At the same time, you’ve also hit the nail on the head – this show and its entire premise is a fantasy and therefore there are many things in it that will not be true to life. And so, in order to enjoy this one effectively, one would need to approach it with a lens that is intentionally tweaked to allow for that fantasy.
Having said that, you are very right that there are various things, like morality, that are handled with simplistic, broad strokes. Another thing to know about kdramas, is that because of pressure from broadcasting guidelines that favor traditional values like forgiveness, many kdramas do not end up following through when it comes to properly punishing their villains. This is why most revenge kdramas don’t work well, for me, because most of them cop out when it comes to the crunch, and many of them whimper to the end, instead of going out with a bang. I did love Money Flower, though, which I count an exception.
The simplistic treatment of morality is fairly typical in kdramas, except for the rare few whose writers are ballsy enough to tackle such issues with care and nuance. If you’re keen to explore kdramas which have a more complex handling of the issue of morality, I’d suggest Secret Love Affair as your next kdrama. Not only is SLA in the same plane of excellence as Healer, it approaches the question of morality with nuance. Also, the entire drama feels like an art film – which I do think would appeal to the filmmaker in you 😉
PS: I will respond to your emails soonish, I promise!
Just completed this Kdrama….but loved reading your thoughts.
Super power: Did you notice that Park Soo Ha was NOT facing MJG in the courthouse but was able to read his thoughts?!?!? Did he really look each jury member in the eyes?
DNA results: Also when Hwang Dal-Joong’s wife woke up, what happened to her? And why didn’t Do Yeon connect with her?
Finale: Also wished that the high school couple would have resolved a little more clearly.
Reblogged this on mamabatesmotel.
After finally managing to get down to watching this during my annual KDrama binge, I could finally understand all the love it had received during its run and over the years. IHYV is without doubt the best among the few I have watched this year, and has already been unhesitatingly added onto the list of all-time-favourites.
It was a timely reminder that great storytelling and execution will trump beautiful-and-stylish-but-average-writing anytime (all the dramas I have had the pleasure to indulge in this year had amazing casts and acting in general, so on that point, IHYV did not stand out too much. Still, I have to give extra credit to LJS for his fantastically sensitive portrayal of the amazing character of Su-Ha, particularly since it was because I found his looks off-putting – even while I think he has beautiful features – that it took so long for me to dive into IHYV).
Thank you for a wonderful and concise review of what made IHYV such an amazing drama, all of which I more than concurred with, though I thought there were more themes to the series than what you stated here. However, that which you stressed on was certainly one of the series’s most crucial theme, and not the least one of its most moving lesson. Additionally, the ‘love story’ was simply perfect.
I especially appreciated your pointing out the lovely cinematography of this series, which I had been completely clueless about, not to mention that I actually thought it was the least pretty of the dramas I watched this year. I supposed the others were just too in-your-face-pretty-and-stylish in comparison, so much so that I missed the more subtle yet not any less effective beauty suffusing IHYV throughout. So, thank you for allowing me to look at IHYV in another light, literally.
Reading your fabulous review made the glow of love that was IHYV all the more radiant, and for that, a million thanks and much appreciation.
Aw, thank you tenoh27! I’m so pleased that you enjoyed this review, and that it added to your enjoyment of a pretty fantastic show! I loved IHYV, and count it among my favorite kdramas. Sometimes, it really does pay to dig back into dramaland’s past offerings eh? Coz you get to inhale gems like these 😉
I finally watched Nine and liked it quite a bit; as usual, thanks for the input.
Glad you enjoyed Nine, Andy! It was pretty well done overall, I thought! What’s next for you on your watch list? 🙂
I saw this drama a long time ago; however, it is one of my favorite. I’m glad people are still watching it and loving it.
This is the best review I’ve ever read!!!!! Everything I love about this drama is written in your review so I just can’t stop smiling haha.
Inneke; I agree with you. One of the main reasons I always check out the reviews here is that “Kfan” is so methodical in her reviews, that I enjoy reading first and watching next.
Aw Andy. You truly are so supportive and sweet. Thank you for the kind words! I’m extra stoked that you actually enjoy reading first then watching – that’s high praise indeed, which I am duly saving in the ol’ mental treasure box. ❤
Wow, I stumbled upon your blog and enjoyed your reviews very much. Especially this review of IHYV that I love so much. Your review is very well-written & detailed, pretty much matches what I feel about the story, characterization, casts, deliveries, and even the soundtracks
Thank you Inneke!! I’m so pleased that you enjoy the blog, and this review. I really loved IHYV, and in particular, that theme of unconditional acceptance and love moved me deeply. And the soundtrack is 😍😍😍. I still listen to it these days!
I really enjoyed it too and I’ll have to rewatch it sometime soon because I jumped head on into another drama :))). Right now I’m watching Nine, the one with the time travel and it’s got me hypnotized :)))).
I don’t usually follow actors, I choose dramas based on instinct. If I feel like it’s worth it, then I watch it. But I have to admit this is the third drama I’ve watched that has Lee Jong Suk in it and it wasn’t even my intention to do so. It just kind of happened :))). But I’ve gotta admit, he is a good actor. He really does go all out in his parts. I really want to see how he’ll evolve and I was actually thinking of watching his dramas in chronological order to see his development and improvements in his acting.
As for Lee Da Hee… Well, I’m kinda new in Dramaland, so I can’t really say I’ve seen her anywhere else. But she did a great job in this drama. I felt her pain with her, felt embarrassed for her and felt happy with her. I liked Soo Ha’s character more, but she did a great job as Hye Sung.
Thanks for replying 🙂 ! Hope to see you soon 😀 !
Sorry, made a mistake. I meant Lee Bo-young. They’re both Lee’s, so please forgive my honest mistake :P.
Nine is excellent! Yay that you’re enjoying it! 🙂 Also, have you watched School 2013??? It’s one of my faves, and Lee Jong Suk’s in it, and so is my lovely Kim Woo Bin, and they are the epitome of bromantic goodness in it. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it!
I’ll definitely watch School 2013 too 😛 . I’m not a huge fan of Kim Woo Bin yet because the only drama I’ve seen him in so far is The Heirs. It started out strong, in America and stuff, but it didn’t end all that strong… It got lost on the way.
Back to Kim Woo Bin, I’m not a huge fan of villains, so the first part I’ve seen him in didn’t really help me crush on him, so to speak 😛 . I don’t usually watch dramas because of the actors, but I’ll start doing so, first with Lee Jong Suk and then Kim Woo Bin. They seem to be at least good actors.
Right now, Nine has me so hyped! I swear, it tangles my brain! I usually watch 3-4 episodes of any drama at once (usually more, but let’s leave it at that :))) ), but this one makes my brain work :)))) . I started watching it first and then, some 7 episodes in, I decided to read your review and the joint review you did with Betsy, if I’m not mistaken. So many themes and threads I did not pick on at first! Good thing I read it :))). i don’t mind spoilery, but I do mind not understanding a show 😛
On a side note, Life really is nasty when you don’t want to do anything else other than watching drama :))))
Anyway, thanks for the reply :* ! And, as always, keep up the excellent work 😀 !
Heirs is a pretty terrible show, I hafta say. I watched the entire thing for the love of Woob, but honestly, if I didn’t already love him, I would’ve dropped the show like a hot potato. 😛 School 2013, on the other hand, is objectively well-written and well-acted. I watched that before loving either Woob or Lee Jong Suk, and ended up LOVING them in it. So, do bump it up your list, if you can. It’s not romantic, but the emotional potency of their onscreen bromantic friendship (powered by their offscreen real-life bromantic friendship) is the stuff of legends. <3 <3 <3 You will thank me later, I'm quite sure of it! 😉
Nine is a twisty twisty creature, for sure. It's definitely the kind of show where you actually need to stop and just THINK. Which is great, if you like that kind of show. Not everyone loved Nine, but I definitely found it very interesting and thought-provoking. I'd love to know how you like it, when you're done! 🙂
I sure will 😀 ! Just one thing I’d like to ask 😛 . I read a review of your at some point, but I just can’t remember which one and you mentioned the first drama that got you started. I think it was something about a royal family in modern days, or something like that and you said you watched it some six times and even after you gained some experience in the filed, you still loved it. Could you please tell me it’s name? I’ve been trying ever since to remember the name but my memory just isn’t working with me :))). I really want to check that one out too 😀 . I do remember a line in it, though. You said that now, after watching so many dramas you understand more korean than before and some of the meanings get lost in the subtitles. One of the lines was something like: “She’s my queen, of course I’d look for her.” and you said that the correct translation is “She is my wife before being my queen, that’s why I’m looking for her.”
I think this helps :P. I remember all that, but not the name :)))) I hope I remembered the right thing though :)))
And a couple of grammar mistakes, but whatever :))))
You remembered a LOT of stuff about the show AND the review, Sabina! 😀 The drama is titled Goong, and is also known as Princess Hours. You can find the review again here. It’s still a worthy watch, despite its draggy stretches towards the end. I did genuinely enjoy it even on this most recent watch. 🙂
And don’t worry about grammar mistakes, we all make ’em. Blame the fangirl squee. Can’t think straight when we’re giddy with feels, lol 😉
Pff, indeed :)))) I was trying to type fast and write everything I remember, so I just forgot to write right, so to speak :)))). An edit button for the comment section would be so helpful, lol :))))
Thank you sooo much! I’m so not getting out of Dramaland anytime soon :))))
And something like Nine actually quite suits my taste, so again, thank you for the review cause I read your short verdict before deciding to start watching it and then, as I’ve mentioned before, I read the whole thing some 7-8 episodes in :P.
Thanks for the quick reply! I’m sure it must be difficult to answer all comments 🙂
You’re very welcome, Sabina! 🙂 Nine is a pretty unique creature in dramaland, in that I can’t easily think of another drama that’s quite in the same vein. If it’s the twisty nature of the story that you like, though, you might like Heartless City. It’s dark, rather violent and sort of noir. Most viewers either loved it or didn’t manage to get into it. I was the odd duck that spent 14 of the show’s 20 episodes feeling rather ambivalent about the show, and then found myself actually coming to actually care properly for the characters in the final stretch. I haven’t gotten around to reviewing it, but it’s definitely worth considering if you like dark & twisty with a side of bloodlust 😉
I enjoy answering comments on the blog coz it helps me get to know everyone, and I try to get to all comments in a reasonably timely fashion. Depending on Real Life demands, though, I can be really late to answering comments sometimes – just giving you a heads-up, for just in case! 😉
Thanks, I will hunt for it and watch it!
I really liked this show :)! I watched it in two days, I think :)))). Good thing it’s weekend.
You’re right. The characters are really well developed, to the point of actually feeling sorry for Min Joon Gook at the end of the show after hating him for the entire show. I felt his pain and Lawyer Cha was right. If Joon Gook would have had someone to protect, things would have probably been different.
I have to admit that Lawyer Cha’s decision to just step aside in favor of Soo Ha didn’t feel all that real to me. I understood his point of view, I know he could not have pushed Hye Sung after defending with blind trust her mom’s killer. But still, from there to actually pushing Soo Ha towards her… I don’t know many people THAT selfless. But I really liked him and I have to admit that sometimes I thought he would be a way better match for Hye Sung.
Of course I loved the main characters, but I cried my eyes out when Mom died. I was keeping my fingers crossed when Min Joon Gook was pondering whether to keep going the dark path or accept the light Mom was shining on him. When he chose to go through with his plan… that was the moment I actually started to hate him. I thought “What kind of a soul does this guy have to kill an angel?”. After Mom died I was happy that Hye Sung still thought of her and I could see her again, even if only for only a couple of seconds. I myself have a very good relationship with my mom, so I felt really sad for Hye Sung that lost the moral center of her world and for the Mom that never got to see her daughter being happy alongside the man that loves her the most.
I’ll keep this comment short, but before that I have one HUGE question about one of the most important characters, if you ask me. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PUPPY?! The puppy the twins had. That puppy was one of the most important characters!!
Anyway, at the end of the show, I wanted more OTP moments, but I felt almost “satisfied” with him in uniform hugging her :). That was really cute and it gave me the impression of “Happily ever after”.
This time I read your review after watching the show, but the review helped me to understand a couple of things that felt misty to me :P.
So again, keep up the good work, as always :D!
I agree with you, I watched it a long time ago and have re-watched it twice; that is how much I like it. I love those happy closed type endings. I have not seen her in any other drama, yet I have seen him in many; wonder what projects she has going drama wise?
Just butting in to say that Lee Bo Young’s taking a break from everything while she takes care of her new baby. I’ve heard good things about My Daughter Seo Young though. You could try that if you’re looking to see more from her 🙂
Heyya Sabina!! It’s so great to know that you’re still inhaling those dramas AND loving ’em! 😀 TWO DAYS! That’s really fast work! 😉
I thought the writers did a solid job of humanizing the monster, with Min Joon Gook. I started out truly hating him, and Show managed to make him a sympathetic character in spite of how horrible they’d made him out to be, in the earlier episodes. Despite not actually wanting to sympathize with him, I really couldn’t help it, by the end. That’s skillz, I say. That, even when he killed the best Mom in all of dramaland. I was so impressed with how fiery and strong Mom remained through to the very end though. She rocks, no question.
No answers about the puppy, but I just recently stumbled on the fact that the twins were, in fact, twins! I mean, so often, shows create the appearance of twins with CGI, but in this case, they had bona fide twins play the roles. I was quite amused by this fact. 🙂
Glad that the review helped to clear some stuff up for ya.. that does make me feel very useful indeed! ^^
I totally loved this one! It was one of my favorites.
Oh yes, this was one of my favorites too! So warm and cracky, and Lee Jong Suk in this is <3 🙂
It’s possible, although he’d already gone pretty far in service of proving his point (kidnapping and psychological torture). Probably it was more because of the timeslot. 😛
I was trying to decide if the mickey mouse law was a good thing or a bad thing in this show, and I decided that it didn’t matter, from a popularity perspective. Give people something to love and they will forgive a LOT!
Thanks for the review!
Ah yes. Timeslot. That’s an excellent point. Kdramas airing on network never get overly gritty, unlike their cable cousins. That’s probably a big reason why they toned it down for IHYV. 🙂
I have to agree with you about giving people something to love – I can forgive a heckuva lot if Show gives me something to love. In this case, I forgave the mickey mouse law. But seriously. Some of the legal stuff was comical in how illogical it was. *shakes head* But, if that’s the price I have to pay for well-developed character and relationship arcs, I’d gladly pay it! XD
I just marathoned this. Oh.My. The show has definite weaknesses, as you say, but the character trajectories were so well-rounded and so complete, it was completely worth it. This writer is now on my to-watch list. I found myself enjoying all the side characters too, which really helped when the “is he a beast or not” theme got explored for the umpteenth time. Though I would have cringed the final exploration should have included more abuse of the Hye Sung character, to up the stakes. As it was, it just ended up bring a rehash of the previous test. Bloodthirsty I am 😛
Heh. You are quite the bloodthirsty viewer, aren’t you? 😉 Maybe the reason they didn’t go in that direction was to show that he really wasn’t a beast, but a pretty regular normal man underneath it all.. And yes, the characters were so nicely developed, weren’t they?? I really enjoyed that about this show. 😀 It’s no wonder that I enjoyed Dream High so much, since the same writer wrote that. I found all the characters so very likable in Dream High. She also wrote Stranger Than Paradise, which I’ve heard good things about. Definitely a writer to keep on the ol’ radar. If only she’d get better at the workplace-related research. The mickey mouse law they featured in IHYV really provided many opportunities for eye-rolling. XD
I started watching IHYV because of a recommendation a while back. Like a lot of the stuff I end up liking, I was skeptical at first about the plot-line and whether I would actually enjoy watching it since I had been running through a lot of dramas and feeling disappointed for a while already. Needlessly to say, I felt silly for not watching it sooner. This is the only drama where I was glued to the screen within five minutes of the first episode just because of the main character’s acting. LJS is really an actor I look forward to watching grow even more in the future. If he can capture my eyes in just five minutes, I can’t even imagine what he’ll be able to do in ten years, oof.
I loved how even though this drama technically is supernatural because of Soo Ha’s abilities, the characters in this drama were some of the most realistic portrayals of humans in real life that I have ever seen on television. Kudos to the amazing writers of this wonderful series.
Park Soo Ha is definitely my favorite character here, hands down. Even though he hid a lot of his feelings from Hye Sung, it felt like his emotions were so raw and pure. Even when he was tormented by conflicting emotions, you could tell that sometimes they consumed him due to the sheer intensity of what he was feeling. And yet, he still managed to retain some of his composure around others, which I really admire. Park Soo Ha will grow to be one amazing man in the dramaverse.
Oh yes, Lee Jong Suk totally KILLED it as Park Soo Ha. He was, hands-down, my favorite character in this show! He has such a great way of drawing you into his character, often without having to say anything. I was immediately intrigued by him, immediately on his side. There’s just something about Lee Jong Suk that bleeds into his characters that way. I felt the same way about his performance in School 2013. Have you seen that one yet, Tsuki? If you haven’t, it’s totally worth the watch. For Lee Jong Suk’s fantastic performance, his epic bromance with my personal favorite Kim Woo Bin, and a very well-written story on top of that.
Soo Ha is possibly one of the best male leads ever, in the dramaverse. Well, Kim Boong Do in Queen In-hyun’s Man might just top Park Soo Ha, but Park Soo Ha is definitely way up there for me. The intense, selfless, unconditional way that he loves is just heartbreakingly moving. And Lee Jong Suk portrays it all so well, bringing Soo Ha to life so wonderfully.
There were definite flaws in IHYV (not least the oversimplified legal system), but indeed, I loved the way the writer fleshed out all the characters and their relationships. Very well done indeed. Definitely one that I’d rewatch. I’m so glad you checked this out despite having initial misgivings! Recommendations rawk, don’t they? 😀
Found these updates on LJS.
Thanks for sharing, kaiaraia!! 😀
I find there’s just something quite entrancing about Lee Jong Suk. Especially when they style him the way they do in the vid.. He’s got such a soft sort of sensuous quality about him.. yet it’s not a feminine sort of vibe. Some of the shoots do push the envelope on that though. In any case, I find him fascinating ^^
Yep, there’s some mild mystery about him that I find him interesting.
…oh…i had miss a lot from this page…as i’m relaxing this afternoon..i suddenly played Jung YUp’s Why Did You Just Came nOw…i love this OST so light and breezy…after the madness over the pages of your k-loves it so nice to be relieved and listen to this kind of song…Jung Yup’s voice is really nice!..and as i’m listening i vividly visualize all the cute moments of Soo Ha with his noona..i’m planning to do a re-watch of this drama definitely!…<3.
will Heirs be a part of your review?…or what about Marry Him if You Dare and Medical Top Team?..
Oh yes, I love that song from the OST!! That one is my hands-down favorite! 😀 So breezy, carefree and sexy. I can listen to that on repeat indefinitely, seriously. And I definitely want to rewatch IHYV at some point.. So much sweet, swoony goodness, thanks to Lee Jong Suk & his lovely, lovely Soo Ha 🙂
Yes I plan to review Heirs.. I was planning to check out Mirae’s Choice, but I’ve been hearing pretty disappointing things about it lately, so I may not check it out in the end.. So many other shows I’m curious about! Medical Top Team isn’t on that list tho.. Medical shows just aren’t my thing.. I’ll only check that out if I hear some amazing things about it – I’m always up for checking out a show with an amazing reputation even if it’s not my style, coz that’s how I discovered the awesomeness of Vampire Prosecutor & Gaksital. Awesome shows! If you haven’t checked them out, I highly recommend them both! ^^
Jung Yup made some nice k-drama OSTs and honestly speaking, when i saw him in a video singing with GY i instantly became a fan like with Ra.D…i have to wiki him and rooted some of his songs.
…oh!..i would honestly say that the terms used in Medical Top Drama is killing me…y’know?…when you don’t know most Korean words you have to double up the reading in the English subbed…some medical terminologies are being included apart from the subbed and if it too fast and you miss the subs you have to hit the previous button to see the wordings again…but i managed to watch 8 episodes…i’ll stop for a while ‘coz i’m hook to Heirs…LOL!
..i think LJS latest movie ” No Breathing” with Seo In Guk has been released in Korea last Oct. 30.. i remember mentioning to you that some scenes from that movie was filmed here… i hope i’ll be able to catch that up on net…
Aw, yay for discovering a new artist that makes good music while watching kdramas! Some OSTs really have nice music, so it’s a great way to find artists that make the kind of music you like! It’s kind of how I find out most of the artists I like, heh.
Oh, I can imagine the kind of subs you’re dealing with, on Medical Top Team! Medical dramas aren’t my thing, so when I think about it, New Heart is probably the only medical kdrama I’ve watched. And the medical terms do make it really hard. I mean, even when you’re able to read the subs, it doesn’t mean you’re able to UNDERSTAND them! XD I feel your pain, evez!
I’m looking forward to checking out No Breathing! I know the torrent is available now, but subs aren’t available at this point, so I guess we’ll all have to wait awhile. Unless you don’t care about subs and watch it raw..
Okay how’s this for a kick in the pants?? These pictures are GORGEOUS! Looks like Lee Jong Suk ‘stole’ Woobie’s “Heirs” girl Park Shin Hye. haha. Now those two really need to do a photo-shoot together. If these are smoking, then those would be in flames.
I can already see writers and producers gears spinning on what drama to give to LJS and PSH. That would be awesome. I just read a quick article where LJS said he’s not an Aegyo machine like fans think, he considers himself pretty manly. ooooh. haha. Personally I never looked at him and thought ‘Aegyo.’ haha. There’s something very mysterious, intense AND manly about him, and IHYV really brought that out in him. Maybe because those fans watched him when he hosted that show. The one he said on Hwaisin that he pretty much hated doing and had to force himself to be all cutesy.
Those pix are gorgeous, I hafta agree!! No matter how many times I’ve seen them, I still have to stop and slack-jaw a little, at the pure gorgeousness on my screen!! And YES I CAN SO IMAGINE WOOBIE & PARK SHIN HYE IN A SHOOT @.@ That would be off-the-charts sizzle, methinks!!
Weird thing about PSH, she seems have a split personality when it comes to her drama personas vs her magazine spread personas. In her magazine spreads, she can be all sultry and sexy, but in her dramas, she’s all wide-eyed, stiff-lipped innocence. It’s a little disconcerting when you put them side by side, tbh. I’d like to see her take on a drama role that’s closer to her sultry, sexy side. Maybe play the sexy bitch in a drama for once. And then maybe have Lee Jong Suk – or Woobie! – come along and mess up her perfect life, while helping her discover her heart. I’d watch THAT drama!! ;D
Funny about LJS and the aegyo remark.. I found him incredibly swoony and manly in IHYV, yet, I’ve always seen him as a bit of an aegyo boy, coz he totally gets that way around Woobie, and I’ve mostly seen him in joint interviews with Woobie. They bring out the aegyo in each other, I think, what with all the “boing-boing”..!! XD
Maybe she should break that ‘cutesy’ mold for once, I think Woobie would be the stronger choice to mess her up. hahaha. So funny. And you have seen the interviews, so I guess LJS does have an Aegyo side to him after all. LOL.
@kfangirl: You’re observation about PSH is right. I would love to see her all hot, sultry and sexy for once.
Yes please!! Hot, sultry, too-cool-for-school Park Shin Hye, trading sparks with bad-boy Woobie who’s got a hidden marshmallow heart. Imagine all the bickering awesome between them, coupled with the bemused sputtering on both sides when not in each others’ presence? I’d watch that drama!! XD
I think both LJS and Woobie have an aegyo side.. and while it may not come out much in solo interviews, LJS does tend to get more aegyo when with Woobie. I just read a quick article too, where Jong Suk talks about seeing himself as manly (not sure if it’s the same one you read, Lady G!), and I quote Woobie, “Jong Suk has a lot of aegyo. Although I’m the type to have a lot of aegyo as well, I’m nothing compared to Jong Suk.” HAHAHA!! Maybe bestie sees Jong Suk more clearly than Jong Suk sees himself? XD The full article’s here: http://www.allkpop.com/article/2013/03/actor-lee-jong-suk-reveals-hes-mistaken-as-a-flirt#axzz2jjNejXWp
Is that a poll on who’s sexier? Sorry Asmi but I find that X-factor around Woobie sexy!
All About Eve… I’ve seen that drama a long long time ago. I don’t remember much about it except that I hated that envious, greedy orphan so much. Grrrrrrrr!!! With that said, I think she’s a very effective actress.
I, too, am not very pleased with Heirs. Why make a drama that’s so BOF-ish? I’m looking at whether it will have its own identity. I’m hoping so… Thank goodness I chanced upon Basketball. I’m totally loving that show. Anybody here watching that?
Hey now.. You know I will NEVER argue with anyone who declares that Woobie is sexy! 😉 But I’m completely biased that way, so.. *shrugs*
I wish more from Heirs too, kaiaraia.. It promised to be so cracky, and now it’s just a ho-hum pleasant watch when I’m not being too picky about too much wrist-grabbing and male posturing. Those things really bugged me in E8, & I’m just waiting to see if the show will self-calibrate, coz all the “romantic” moments are totally falling flat for me right now. And that is NOT a result of my Woobie-bias either! 😛
With what little I watched of Heirs, I’m having a hard time believing that most of these kids are High School, well, because they aren’t, and at this stage they don’t look like they are either. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s some kind of disconnect with Lee Min Ho this time around. Like he’s just going through the motions of being in the drama. I feel like he’s phoning it in. Maybe he realized he made a poor drama choice. Because how can you go back to High School after you’ve done such great roles like City Hunter, a time traveling sword master with epic lightning powers, and the adult-themed role in Personal Taste?
Woo Bin on the other hand is doing a great job of being a High School monster. You can see he’s totally loving and making the best of his character!
I do get what you mean about LMH in Heirs.. There’s a distant, disengaged sort of air about him, as if he’s not QUITE fully in character. I suspect it’s a deliberate acting choice by him, towards creating a more subtle interpretation of his character. He does manage a good amount of nuance in his gazes, so it’s not all bad. But I do want to see him do better, and do more. I think the writing’s partly to blame, in that his character – and others too – don’t feel well fleshed out. I’ve seen better from LMH – I thought he was pretty fantastic in City Hunter – so I hope he steps it up in the coming eps.
Woobie’s being one heckuva scary high school monster, and while he’s bringing it so well that some people are misplacing their dislike for Young Do onto Woobie, I do want the writing to allow Young Do more dimension as well. So far we’ve only gotten tiny hints at more being under the surface, but it’s not balancing out nicely at the moment. Everything feels kind of uneven at the moment, and I’m just waiting with crossed fingers that it starts to come together properly soon. I mean, I won’t drop the show, for Woobie’s sake, but I’d sure like to ENJOY it while I’m at it…! 😛
One thing I know LMH is strong with, is those subtle, longing, loving, deep gazes. They’re beautiful.
Hmm, perhaps this is a new thing writers are trying, enough with the good-hearted 2nd male leads that we all mourn for because they don’t get the girl. If they make him really bad, by the end, nobody will care when he doesn’t. hmm…While I don’t think the 2nd leads should be ‘evil’, (Woobie looks downright psychopathic in some scenes!) I feel bad when he’s such a good guy and gets the shaft at the end. I also noticed that 2nd lead guys who are nice, are starting to get their own nice girls by the end. To the point where I don’t care if they don’t get the lead girl. Sometimes, as we discussed, she’s not worth all the tug-of-war. lol. I’m watching Marry him if you dare, and I’m equally engaged with all 4 leads and don’t feel the need to ship one or the other. I want the 2nd leads to wind up together.
Giggle. Those LMH gazes ARE beautiful.. until they’re used to an excess, which is when it starts toe-dipping into eye-rolling territory. Heirs is dancing on that line quite dangerously, with LMH’s character not doing much else besides the manifold gazing, with a whole lotta wrist-grabbing & forced skinship suddenly thrown into the mix. If Show doesn’t resolve this properly, it – or HE – is going to come off bipolar, is what I’m thinking >.<
Yes, more 2nd leads are breaking out of that so-nice-that-it-(has-to)-hurt sort of mold, and that's a good thing. In fact, those shows where 2nd leads end up together can be really cute too, as long as the writers find other effective ways to keep the dramatic tension from flagging. I feel like the 2nd lead is often shoved in there just to keep the dramatic tension going, and mostly, just comes off as lazy writing. After a couple of dramas, we see what you're doing, writers!
I've been hearing good things about Marry Him If You Dare – better than I'd expected, really! So I'm planning to check it out when it's done. Basketball comes first though. THAT one looks awesome!! Plus, PD Kwak and his eye for beauty? *salivates*
I can just see your review of Basketball now!! It’s terrific. The scenery LUSCIOUS and nostalgic.
I find with Marry him if you dare, I like it, LOVE Lee Dong Gun in anything, but I can also take it or leave it and wait for it to be over to watch. There’s no urgency. The older Mi Rae and the younger are POLES apart, look nothing alike, act nothing alike, no matter how much life threw at her and she supposedly changed. But it is good. I find myself a little more engaged with the 2nd leads and look forward to their scenes. Yoon Eun-hye is cool, but she’s really just another badly permed spunky, sloppy heroine with no prospects that suddenly, magically, gets her dream job to become a writer at a big news station and two hotties are falling in love with her right off the bat. Riiiighhhhtt. No wonder the head writer there hated her guts at first, they all had to go through college, get degrees and work their buns off to get where they are. lol. But I like it enough to watch every week and the time travel angle is always cool to me.
I hate when fans and viewers start believing the actor is really like their character. Actually, let me take that back, when the character is pure awesomeness and good and has lovely qualities, then yes, we would HOPE it’s a reflection of the actor. But when they are so bad, you don’t want to imagine they are bad too. But some fans take it to extreme with all the disparaging comments that reflect off the actor personally and not the role. That’s a shame. It seems like there are way too many story lines going on in heirs. I get a headache with dramas like that. It’s hard for me to enjoy them because there may be only 1 or 2 I like and the rest are junk or boring. :p
Omigosh, I am SO looking forward to a Basketball marathon!! I saw the trailers, and from what I’ve seen, the cinematography looks gorgeous and textured, and the editing very, very sharp and slick. Can’t wait to sink my teeth in and get a proper taste! 😀
Marry Him If You Dare sounds a touch formulaic but in a harmless sort of way.. I think. I don’t particularly love badly styled, sloppy heroines.. even if they have a good amount of spunk. It’s just.. we’re supposed to believe that both male leads are drawn to bad perms and sloppiness? It’s hard to buy. But then, I suppose it’s part of the fantasy: no matter how sloppy *I’VE* gotten from too many hours of drama, my prince will come too? Lol.
Yes, comments on Heirs have been very mixed, with a large chunk of netizens going for intense snark of the excessive variety. I don’t think it’s great, but it’s definitely not so bad that it deserves all the derision either. I mean, I’ve seen dramas WAY worse get better receptions. BOF was a MUCH bigger mess, and yet people lapped it up with pleasure. Thankfully, even in the midst of the snark and some of the hate comments on Young Do/Woobie, there’re still a good number of viewers who acknowledge Woobie’s intense screen presence and accompanying hawtness. Crossin’ my fingers for Woobie that Friend 2 will be super awesome, to balance out the mixed response to Heirs.
I suppose it’s all about the ‘heart’ of the girl, plus this is time-travel Korea style, a lot to do with fate and how they were meant to be and originally were together in the first time-line. But even then, she was still a sloppy permed and dressed overly spunky heroine. It’s just so unreal. LOL But I wish it were for me too. haha
I’m amazed at how many consider BOF the BEST drama ever. Seriously? I couldn’t get past 6 episodes. The lead girl is not a good actress (I read she’s more behind the scenes now making movies, art etc. and they are very successful) and the story got disjointed along the way. Yes, the guys were hot and played their roles well, but I don’t know, I liked the cracky Japanese version best. But I never got through the first season much less the 2nd one. High School dramas don’t have a big appeal for me. Even when I was really in High School and everyone was raving over Beverly Hills 90210 and My So called life, I never liked those types of shows! LOL. I was into action and superheroes and mysteries, SCI-FI, etc.
I’m sure Woobie will be great in his movie. It sounds like an intense gangster plot. And I’m glad there are some that can use logic and realize he’s simply playing a bad guy role.
Oh my, BOF is such a hot mess, seriously. I watched it riding on the buzz of the live watch, and swooned with everyone else at Kim Hyung Joon even though part of my brain did register that it was a sub-par drama. When I tried to rewatch it last year, though, it was truly awful. I didn’t even find Kim Hyung Joon cute in the role anymore. And Gu Hye Sun is terrible in the show, just terrible. I’m sure she’s capable of better, but overacting seemed to be the direction she was given, coz she did that. A LOT. >.< I MUCH prefer the J-version of the story; I loved that so much that I watched the sequel AND the movie, even though neither lived up to the fun of the first.
I enjoy high school dramas done well, though maybe less so now than before kdramas came along. I still have a soft spot for them, and there are some like School 2013 which have a universal sort of appeal (yep, I snuck that in there! Hee :P)
I'm so cheering for Woobie to rock everyone's socks off in Friend 2! I know it's a lot of pressure, being in a sequel of such a respected & popular movie, and among veterans, at that.. but he's shown that he can really bring it, so I'm waiting with bated breath to see the kind of awesome that he's delivering in Friend 2. Woobie, fighting!! ^^
I really want to get back to the J-version of the story. One day when my drama plate is almost clear. LOL. Like that will ever happen. :O I won’t pan every High School thing ever. If I had to pick, my absolute favorite High School movie was a little sleeper film from 1980 called ‘My Bodyguard.’ I fell in love with Hunky actor Adam Baldwin and am still a fan of his ever since. But you know all those high school offerings of the nineties, etc,Clueless, etc. I just never liked. Maybe because I couldn’t wait to get out of High School in real life. LOL Or I just didn’t get the satire then. My Bodyguard was gritty and real, and I enjoyed the story and wow, that was almost like a ‘bromance’ before the word ever existed.
If there’s one thing I’ve found out, Lady G, it’s that the ol’ drama plate never, ever gets anywhere near cleared! So your thought that it’ll never happen? I second that! XD But yeah, when you’re in the mood for campy, manga-based high school nonsensical fun, Hana Yori Dango should fit the bill quite nicely ^^
And definitely, personal context plays a huge role in influencing how we respond to a movie/drama. So I can totally see why you wouldn’t have enjoyed high school shows if you were actually chomping at the bit to get OUT of high school! I should keep an eye out for that My Bodyguard movie.. retro movies can be such fun, and with the promise of before-its-time bromance, it sounds like it’s worth checking out, at the very least! 🙂
LOL. Yes! I’m always refilling my drama plate! Because sometimes I’ll drop one for a while, then go back. It never ends.
My last year in High School I blossomed in a sense, that I got involved with school plays and became an editor for an Art Magazine. That was fun. But I struggled with certain subjects so I always had to focus on repeating those math and science classes every semester before that. Ughh. So much work. And the usual feeling out of place in school. etc.
‘My Bodyguard’ is definitely worth the watch! It’s just a little film about a huge loner kid with a mysterious, bad reputation and the kid who needs his help to deal with bullies.
But seriously, check out the dvd cover-and the motorcycle photo-how much more 1980, American, bromance can you get?? LOL. I love the Motorcycle friendship bonding scene.
I’ve always loved this movie, I even made a video a few years ago too.If you don’t mind hints of a spoiler, maybe check it out. 🙂 I had to use a cover version of that song, when the one I had with the original was removed. :/ But it gave me a chance to revamp the video anyway.
Gah, I feel ya, Lady G.. Math & science subjects were the bane of my school life as well :/ I sucked at those subjects no matter how hard I tried. I dropped all the math-y and science-y subjects as quickly as I could, Lol!
Oh, this movie looks like so much retro goodness, with an underdog story complete with bromantic goodness; I’m gonna hafta track this down and give it a watch sometime.. *googles madly*
I couldn’t drop math until my last year. The teacher passed me out of pity because I tried so hard, took tutoring. And she didn’t want me held back from graduation. haha.
😀 YAY! Nobody ever regrets watching ‘My Bodyguard.’ lol. They usually love it. You’ll notice one of the actresses is a very young frizzy hair Joan Cusack, and in a classroom scene and some quick outdoor lunch scene you’ll see a very pretty, young and tan/frizzy haired Jennifer Beals. LOL.
I FOUND IT, Lady G!! It’s safely torrented and waiting for consumption now! ^^v Thanks for the heads-up on the cameos – LOVE those, coz it’s always such a novelty to see big stars in their earlier, less famous works. Hm.. Might be the perfect little watch for my flight back to Singapore ^.~
Basketball is one of the most awesome new dramas out right now. I love it. And the newcomers in the leads are doing a fantastic job.
I so so so agree with you Lady G. The cinematography, the script, the acting, SUPERB! It’s my new favorite! I hope it stays that way.
@Kaiaria: I love the bait and switch going on in Basketball right now with the 2 male leads. The lead is going to have to go through some attitude adjustments throughout. I still feel bad for him. But I love both guys in this! And it’s one of the rare times I really like the female lead. lol. And I was confused with that grungy ‘kid.’ She claims she’s 14. I know the actress is 23, and very petite. And every one is calling her a little kid. I was already shipping her with the 2nd lead their story is so great. I felt like she was lying about her age. :narrows eyes:
Anyway, lots of nice surprises in this one, like IHYV.
However those cameos by the same actor are getting so irritating. It pulls you out of the drama and continually reminds you that you’re watching something fake. I don’t like that. Especially because this is not really a comedy at all.
Wow I can’t even keep up with all the comments here now. They’re great though. Love all the insights. But let me just stir the pot!
Muwhahahaha! :runs away!:
Noooo!!! Don’t goooo…!!! I miss ya, Lady G!! ❤
And what is this? Who’s sexier, Kim Woo Bin or Lee Jong Suk??? HAHA. I can so predict the outcome here. I’m gonna root for Woobie, of course. And Asmi’s gonna root for Lee Jong Suk. Impasse, here we come XD Or, can’t we have them both??? Ala School 2013?? Bromance is way sexy, especially when it’s made up of these 2 sexy boys! ^^
I’m always lurking. I can’t help but subscribe to comments on your posts. There’s always something juicy to discuss. 😀 ❤ Haha, I knew you’d like that little article. If I may add, I do have to go with Woo Bin just based on that photo they used. But they both have some great qualities that stand out. Apples and oranges, both delicious and so different! I feel bad that I don’t really like ‘Heirs’ but Woobie is such a compelling character in it. I do sneak peeks to watch his scenes. One day I’ll watch it all.
Kaiaraia Brought up a good point about the male viewers. K-drama is definitely dominated by the female population, but come one K-actresses, throw them a bone! They are so intent with giving us representations about how the man is supposed to behave and treat his woman, but what about the woman? I’m a very old fashioned gal, I have no problem with the wrist grabbing, leading the girl around provided it’s done in the right context and there’s a balance of respect and love.
But what about how the women treat the men? I find the over use of the Aeygo repulsive, (But I think K-drama caught up to that and mocks it anyway, LOL *See City Hall* lol) nor do i like the pouty, naggy, witchy faced women who constantly screech and slap, and there are some so-called leading heroines guilty of that. And men are supposed to be attracted to that and we the viewer have to root for her and all her dreams to come true? Then when given the glorious opportunity with the man she supposedly loves (though she slapped the crap out of him for 13 episodes) she stands there like a goldfish on its last breath when he goes in to kiss her!! Ughhh! infuriating. I highly doubt the male audience is gonna get all shocked if they give more than that in a kiss. They aren’t going to weep and wail because the so called ‘purity’ of their favorite actress is ruined. It’s ACTING! lol.
I recently finished watching a fabulous ‘old’ drama- All about Eve, from 2000. and I was thunderstruck. It’s so refreshing to see a drama without all the over-dramatic pauses, stares, and stilted dialogue and miscommunications. People actually talk to each other and work out their problems, and the story flows. They touch and hug right away w/o waiting for an hour with shaking hands or swelling music. Life happens realistically. Some consider this the best Korean drama. What happened in 13 years since? No drunken leading ladies, they stayed true, well dressed, and professional women the entire time. (They graduated to news anchors.) But it didn’t feel fake. No piggy back rides, and every other trope you’d find. Okay, a little flu, and the very end when they stand in the crosswalk and a major plot twist where I held my head and said, IT Starts! But there has to be some cliche. lol. It started somewhere.
I somehow feel cheated. Robbed. Now I know that K-dramas are constantly manipulating our emotions to the hilt with all these deliberate camera shots of shaking hands going in for a hug, holding hands, the trickery used just to show a kiss that the leading lady ruins, the excessive use of soundtrack (cuz the music biz must make money too!) It’s almost like Fans no longer care about the quality of the story, script, etc. (Not the gals here, but just saying!) all that they want is the big kiss (which is often a fail!) The fans look for every moment of romance and cuteness without considering the plot. etc. I’m a guilty party of course, it’s fun. But after watching this I feel sad that a drama can’t have all of the normalcy AND a good kiss, soundtrack, etc.
I’m Sorry, I’m ranting off the rails!! Let me get back on track- IHYV, now that I think of it, showed elements of that old drama, which is why it came out so good and not ‘manufactured’.
To be fair, I think with All about Eve, we were seeing the beginning of the usual K-drama tropes and cliches. They didn’t become tongue in cheek or ironic. That’s what I found refreshing.
Yay that you’re following the comment threads Lady G, even if you can’t join in all the time. I do love our chats, but as always, Real Life priorities must come first!
Heirs isn’t as cracky as I’d hoped, for sure.. It’s turned into a pretty languid, easy sort of watch for me.. I don’t hate it, but it’s not earning many points from me at the moment for sure. I love how intense KWB is in character, but I don’t love the writing right now. If they don’t hurry up and give Young Do’s character more dimension quickly, I’m gonna be kinda upset, that’s for sure! You don’t cast KWB then make him a one-note bully!
Another beef I have with Heirs is related to your point about female characters in dramas.. Park Shin Hye’s character is currently (at eps 8 & 9) being wrist-grabbed and pushed around to an excess, and there’s no proper balance of respect, care and concern, never mind about love. It drives me batty, and I can’t feel supportive of the OTP, the way things are right now. But I’m stickin’ in there, for Woobie’s sake, but let’s just say that I’m not very pleased with the writer at the moment. >.<
HAHAHA!! Your rant about female characters in kdramas made me chuckle, Lady G!! I think the bitchy female protagonist is a recent evolution, with the jerky to-be-reformed male lead and Candy female lead being a staple of earlier dramas.. I do agree that some female leads are just impossible to root for, and there is no way to understand why the male lead would want to be with her. Like I Need Romance 2012. I had serious issues with our female protagonist, who was mean-spirited, petty and selfish all the way through, and failed to understand why sweet-puppy 2nd male lead Kim Jin Suk was so smitten with her. Silver lining on THAT dark cloud, though, was at least the kisses were decently delivered all the way through.
I feel like the kdrama landscape is shifting even as we speak, with more celebs dating opening than ever before (have you read the latest? Kim Bum & Moon Geun Young are dating!!), so hopefully this will translate into more realistic portrayals of our onscreen couples and their kisses.
All About Eve!! It's a classic which I've parked on my watch list and haven't gotten around to, with the plethora of newer, shinier dramas also inhabiting that list! Hearing your raves about it does propel it up higher that neverending list! I do agree that kdramas are a lot about manipulating mood and atmosphere, and in principle, I've nothing against that. I mean, that's what ALL movies and dramas do, regardless of country of origin. It's all artifice, in the end. But HOW it gets executed is where the difference lies. I need my kdrama tropes to be executed with purpose, context and heart, otherwise it becomes meaningless posturing on my screen, and we all don't want THAT.
I blame the insane live-shoot system for the patchy quality that's getting served up from drama to drama. It's already such a delicate balance between science and art, to make a good drama, without having crazy time crunches, severe sleep depravation and all kinds of production pressures to complicate matters. It's no wonder that some shows end up going cheap & easy, serving up cute with no plot or context (Lie To Me, I'm lookin' at you!).. At the same time, I'd hate to give up on my dramas.. I love 'em too much, and the ones that DO end up being truly good, are gems indeed. IHYV is definitely one such gem.. So full of heart, swoon and squee, with robust themes and stories to boot. (I choose to ignore your mickey mouse law that makes no sense.)
You’re right, all movies, shows, etc, manipulate the viewers. Some more extreme than others. And there has been an upswing in the cold-hearted female, vs. the jerky men these days. Ice queens just always rubbed me the wrong way even in real life. But there’s always a reason for that icy exterior and the dramas come up with excellent plots and character development with them.
You know I didn’t even think about the Live Shoot system contributing to the quality. You are right. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the shiny new dramas, but with AAE, it just struck me as so simple and sweet and all-around natural. The leading man-yum! Jang Dong Gun where has he been all my life! Love his handsome round face and huge expressive eyes, and his character was never a jerk either. Plus Chae Rim is my favorite K-Drama actress, she’s simply adorable. Very talented. IHYV definitely had every aspect of what makes a drama great, and all in a good balance. 🙂
I don’t enjoy the upswing of the cold-hearted female per se, coz that can be really tricky to pull off. We need to see the female lead’s bad traits and yet still like her, that takes some clever writing and skillful execution.. Not every actress would manage to make us love-hate her, I suspect. So, props to LBY for doing a great job in IHYV!
Also! I really should look into checking out AAE.. Sounds like a very worthy retro watch. I think I’m gonna put that into the mix for nightcap drama. I’d been meaning to check out an early Jang Dong Gun drama and AAE is THE ticket! I’ve only seen him in A Gentleman’s Dignity, and even though I did dig the smoldery stares that he delivered so excellently, he did strike me as having a bit of a drug-addict-esque sort of unhealthy pallor. I wanted to know the Jang Dong Gun whom Korea first fell in love with, and that’s why I parked AAE on my list. And I do enjoy Chae Rim and Kim So Yeon, so seeing them in an early work should be fun ^^
AAE for a night cap drama sounds good. For me a ‘marathon’ is 3 days. I finished it in 3 days I loved it that much. I have Gentleman’s Dignity on my list too. But I can see the big difference. I think it also has to do with the changing men’s styles. It seemed like then, it was okay for the male leads to be softer, chunkier, etc. Probably up until 2006. There wasn’t this obsession with the ‘chocolate abs’ and chiseled jaws like today. But I hate it when I see my favorite K-actors become crack addict thin. It’s happened a few times. :p It looks really unhealthy. Sometimes you can see that happen during the progression of a drama, because of the shooting stress and all I’m sure.
Oh, one more thing about AAE, the main love song is a total ear worm! You will be humming and singing it for days. I was disappointed the soundtrack didn’t have the instrumental version as played in the show at times. It lends itself beautifully to a classical style.
You marathoned AAE in 3 days?!?? Wow. It MUST be pretty cracky! Which I do love.. except, with a cracky drama as a nightcap, will I actually get to sleep? XD Lol. I do love a cracky show, though. Especially one with a good OST, and AAE sounds very promising!
Yes, male leads can lose weight visibly during live shoots.. Lee Dong Wook talked about struggling to keep his weight ON during the shooting of Scent of a Woman. He looked lovely in the shirtless scenes even though he leaned lean (hur), but later, the PD would tell him to stop losing weight, and that’d stress LDW out, coz he wasn’t actually TRYING to lose weight but it was melting off him anyway. Those live shoots can be murder, seriously! >.<
The industry definitely used to be way more forgiving. I remember Lee Byung Hun was rather chunky in Beautiful Days, but that didn't stop him from melting our screens and scooping the girl out from under the original male lead's nose! XD
I think the crackiest thing about AAE was the 2nd lead girl and her relationship! LOL. Not to mention all the ‘Witch’ slapping! haha. The rest to me was sweet, I guess formulaic, but because I really liked all the actors I just couldn’t stop watching.
Ah, ok, that kind of cracky means I SHOULD still be able to get some sleep, with this as a night-cap! Sleep is important, y’know, especially for a k-dreamer like me. I need me some sleep time so that I can also dream of GY. Or Woobie 😉