THE SHORT VERDICT:
Healer is that special snowflake of a drama that manages to combine action, romance, and some nice spots of comedy, all in one tight little show. And it’s a mighty successful combination too, I might add.
Sure, the backstory runs a little bit melo and may not appeal to everyone, but the blend of adrenaline-pumping thrills, a truly sparky, heartfelt OTP, a deeply melty – yet flawed and believable – hero, and a courageous, strong heroine, makes for an exhilaratingly heady combination of feels that just sends my heart in multiple directions all at once.
Add on Show’s highly polished camera work and its very effective, very immersive OST, and it’s a combination that’s pretty darn hard to beat.
THE LONG VERDICT:
There is no such thing as a perfect kdrama, but Healer checks so many of the right boxes that it’s not only easy to forgive its flaws, but it’s also really easy to lose your heart to it. I know I lost my heart to this one, and really fast too.
For the record, I acknowledge that not everyone loved this show. In fact, Show received rather low ratings when it aired in Korea (sniffle). But those of us who loved this show, loved it dearly, and I count myself among this show’s fans. Unabashedly. Unreservedly. And wholeheartedly. ❤️
This show is consistently cracky, and hits so many right notes all the way through that I couldn’t help but be hooked. It’s fast-paced, tells a solid story, and manages to be very engaging while it does so. The people feel real, the feelings feel real, and therefore the squee feels real, too. Plus, there’s superhero-flavored cool on top of everything else, and in generous helpings to boot. Eee!
Yes, there would be flaws to be found if you looked for them, but why would you want to, really? (Ok, fine, I will list some of those flaws in this review, but still. I maintain that Healer’s fab in spite of them. 😉 )
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it as you read the review.
OVERALL STORYTELLING AND VIBE
The thing that strikes me about Healer, is that it gets cracky real fast.
Right away, we are quickly immersed in Show’s drama world via its cinematic, stylish, fast-paced introduction, complete with tracking shots and dolly zooms that throw us headlong into the unfamiliar, disorientating world of Healer.
With its thrills, spills, and bits of comedy interspersed in between, Show manages to be a snazzy, polished beast that’s shiny and action-packed on the outside, while possessing an extremely keen and sensitive heart on the inside.
Immediately, from the very beginning of the show, I loved that characters and their existing relationships are fleshed out in nicely measured stages. People are put in one another’s orbits in plausible, narratively cohesive ways, and there’s a backstory mystery that offers up its truth, one little obtuse nugget at a time.
Additionally, I love a hero who’s a superhero, and to have our story’s hero literally leaping off tall buildings and being completely, awesomely kickass, just makes my day, really. Honestly, every time Ji Chang Wook parkoured off a building, I swooned. ❤️
So. Bad. Ass.
It all comes together to make this show feel like a fantastic mashup of action, mystery, romance, and superhero origin story, all in one. Sorta like City Hunter, in a way, but cooler, edgier, more grown-up, and bringing way more feels. In my opinion, anyway. 😉
Perhaps best of all, is how Show confidently drives the story forward. Show is densely packed and for the most part, moves along at a pace where I feel like it’s dragging me along, arms flailing, whether my heart is ready or not. Through Show’s run, I consistently felt like I was teetering on the edge of my seat, and usually on multiple levels, too. Show kept going in directions that I didn’t quite expect, and consistently took our story further than I expected it to, sooner than I expected it to.
Not only that, Show even lives up to the cliffhangers that it builds for itself, a feat that I don’t take lightly. So often, I’ve felt cheated by dramas that resolve their cliffhangers with a fakeout in the following episode. Not so Healer. This show consistently stands up to the cliffhangers that it builds for itself, thereby proving itself to be a confident beast that knows where it’s going. Not only does it stand up to the expectations left by its cliffhangers, it often even surpasses them, effectively blowing me away.
Watching this drama, I often felt like my heart was about to implode. Or explode. Or both. Which, basically, is a very, very, very good thing.
There’s an overarching backstory that drives everything forward, and I’ll admit that on my first watch of the show, I wasn’t terribly interested in the story behind this photograph; a photograph which, in my opinion, showed up far more frequently in the show than I was interested to see.
Additionally, the fragmented nature of the information we do get, confused me as well. It was hard to keep up with the mental jigsaw that was necessary, in order to at least try to keep all the little bits of information halfway straight in my head.
In spite of my relative lack of interest in the backstory of our characters during my first watch, I did manage to love the show to pieces, thanks to the interesting characters and their wonderfully engaging relationships.
To be fair to writer-nim, though, I must say that during my second watch, I had a much better appreciation for the backstory, and how it affected my beloved characters. For the record, the fragmented pieces of information actually do fit together neatly, so working to keep them straight in your head would not be a futile exercise (as it sometimes is, with other dramas).
Also for the record, this show was just as cracky – if not crackier – on my second watch. That’s No Small Deal, especially given the fact that I’ve watched way more kdrama than most people would consider healthy. 😛
Despite this show possessing a fairly dense story, with lots of action to drive it forward, it’s really the characters and their relationships that ground everything and give the show heart.
I particularly love how writer-nim treats the characterizations and relationships, in the sense that everything and everyone (well, everyone that mattered to me, anyway) feels organic and interesting, without feeling like too little is served up, or too much.
In this section, I’ll be talking about the main characters, including special spotlights on my favorites.
Ji Chang Wook as Jung Hoo
Thanks to my lack of interest in any of his prior projects, this was my introduction to Ji Chang Wook, and what an introduction that turned out to be! Let’s just say that my fangirl appreciation rocketed from zero to well, ..about a thousand, within just a few episodes. (Pure Pretty post is here!)
Firstly, I was super taken with the matter-of-fact badassery. Jung Hoo’s ability to kick ass, often on a many-to-one sort of scale, is just so freaking cool. Plus, all the cool parkour sequences just took everything to a whole other level. Altogether, our quick-thinking, swift-footed hero had me weak-kneed and squee-ready, pretty much at all times.
Secondly, and more importantly, Jung Hoo turns out to be a faceted character with layers of angst that are not immediately apparent. I found the bit-by-bit reveal of who he is, and what he’s all about as a person, fascinating and completely engaging. As I learned more about Jung Hoo’s inner angst and vulnerabilities, my heart couldn’t help but go out to him.
In both the badassery and the deeper nuances of Jung Hoo’s person, Ji Chang Wook delivers so solidly and believably, that I legit wondered where he’d been all my kdrama life, even as I fell headlong in love with Jung Hoo as a character.
I have to give serious props to writer-nim for creating such a faceted character in Jung Hoo, and equally serious props to Ji Chang Wook, for capably showing us all of those facets, in a way that I found completely compelling.
There are literally so many different sides to Jung Hoo, that I find it difficult to condense them all into this section. But because I find Jung Hoo to be such an absorbing character, I’m gonna attempt to flesh him out, at least a little bit.
I freaking love Badass Healer. The way he offhandedly infiltrates tight security and leaps off tall buildings is just so breathtakingly cool.
Jung Hoo’s daring badassery regularly had me dropping my jaw and swooning into a puddle, often at the same time. I mean, the way he deftly enters a room while people are in it, and slips in and out unnoticed, is the stuff of legends. Of course, it stretches the believability a little, but well, Healer is supposed to be a legend. And the amazing parkour moves make Healer seem like a sageuk assassin-warrior come to life, except he’s plugged into high tech wizardry that no sageuk warrior ever had.
From small moments – like him kicking a can just so in episode 2, in order to engineer the collision of the bicycle with the fruit stand – to the big dramatic moments, Badass Healer had my heart in his easy grasp. In terms of the more dramatic moments, I love the scene in episode 3, of Jung Hoo leaping off rooftops and chasing Moon Ho’s (Yoo Ji Tae) car on foot, ON ROOFTOPS. It literally gave me shivers; it was just all so thrilling.
And I love too, the scene in episode 4, when Jung Hoo goes back to save Young Shin (Park Min Young), and fights off a whole bunch of his contemporaries. I found that detail extra impressive, coz as his contemporaries in the same business, those guys ought to have a solid level of skills too, but Jung Hoo takes them all down, and pretty easily too.
Later, when Jung Hoo goes undercover as dorky Bong Soo, I love that he has to be extra smart with how he intervenes, so that he can save the day without blowing his dorky cover.
All in all, I love that Jung Hoo is this good at what he does. I mean, I always love a man who’s good at what he does, but when what he does involves badass ass-kickery and amazing-yet-effortless parkour wizardry, it just takes it all to a whole other swoonier-than-swoony level. ❤️
Socially awkward Bong Soo
I found Jung Hoo endlessly amusing as an undercover dork, since it felt so dissonant with his uber-cool Healer persona.
Seeing Jung Hoo’s hilarious and believable cover as the nervous, socially awkward Bong Soo was my first inkling of Ji Chang Wook’s excellent acting chops. I mean, it’s one thing to pull off Cool Badass, and it’s another thing to pull off Nerdy Nervous Dork, but it’s a whole other thing to be able to pull off both, while regularly morphing from one into the other, as the situation calls for it. That’s skillz.
Over time, we come to see that Bong Soo’s bumbly awkwardness isn’t just a cover, but is another part of who Jung Hoo is, as a person. It felt somewhat revelational, to realize that our Badass Healer was, deep down, lonely and socially awkward.
Lonely loner primal wildcat in a man-cave
As early as episode 1, we see that Jung Hoo has a fixation with animal wildlife, and over time, we get to see how Jung Hoo is like a wildcat himself; isolated from other people, and spending large amounts of time alone in his cave.
From the beginning of the show, Jung Hoo talks about humans with a distinct air of distance and removal, as if he isn’t one of them, and as if he would like to be removed from the entire world, if possible. In episode 3, Jung Hoo says that he’s never been that into life, all this time, and has been living it, pretty much only because he was born. I found it so sad to hear him say that, and it felt like such a pity, really, that such an amazing superhero-esque person would have this much disdain for life – and by inference, himself as well. *Heart. Break.*
Over the course of the show, we witness Jung Hoo learning to have an interest in and embrace life, and it’s a slow but gratifying journey. I appreciate that Show doesn’t wave a magic wand and make his wildcat tendencies disappear just because he finds the love of his life. His wildcat leanings continue to show themselves, like in how he struggles with adjusting to life as a regular person at a regular job, and then, particularly in how he responds to tragedy: he literally retreats from the world and checks out, and just goes to sleep.
There’s something very real and raw about Jung Hoo’s wildcat disposition that appealed to me. It felt like I was looking at the truest, most.. primal side of him, and I liked feeling like we had access to his core, in that sense.
A tenderheart who cares, in spite of himself
In spite of Jung Hoo’s badass exterior and lonely inner wildcat, we see relatively quickly that he is capable of caring for others, and in fact, loves in a profound manner, when he does love.
With his mom:
The first inkling we get of this, is how Jung Hoo maintains a sweet, warm sort of relationship with his mother (Lee Kyung Shim), even though their lives are kept separate. I love the little detail, that he orders patbingsu for them to share, and then gives her all the red beans even though he likes them too. I love how matter-of-factly he demonstrates care and consideration for his mom. Melt.
We see the depth of Jung Hoo’s love for his mom in episode 12 & 13, in his response to his mom’s abduction by Secretary Oh (Jung Gyu Soo). He walks willingly into the trap, knowing that his own life is at risk, and basically fights to the death in the process.
Once he’s discharged from the hospital, Jung Hoo is so furious that he wants to literally kill Moon Shik (Park Sang Won) and nothing Ahjumma (Kim Mi Kyung) says seems to make a dent in his resolve; he’s like a crazed dog with a bone. Until Ahjumma reminds him that Young Shin’s mother (Do Ji Won) lives in that house. So he holds back the rage that is practically bursting out of him, for Young Shin.
With Young Shin:
For all his badass Healer professionalism, Jung Hoo can’t help but start to care for Young Shin, and we first see evidence of this in episode 4, when he goes back to save her from the Double S thugs.
Over time, we also see him begin to use his skills on the more personal front. Like in episode 7, teaching President Hwang (Jung Hae Kyun) a lesson is personal; giving the video evidence to Young Shin, also personal; confronting Moon Shik with an ultimatum, most definitely personal.
On a slight tangent, as things get personal, it ups the ante. The vibe of the show becomes more intense, because it’s no longer just business. Healer’s invested now, and while that might take away a little, from his cool, detached badassery, it more than makes up for it with the added emotional depth that we get access to.
As Jung Hoo becomes more acquainted with Young Shin, he gets more exposed to what family warmth is like, and it’s heartbreakingly poignant. Like in episode 5, when Jung Hoo sits gingerly at the breakfast table at Young Shin’s house. Without saying anything much at all, Ji Chang Wook manages to convey so much emotion in Jung Hoo: unfamiliarity, hesitance, wonder, surreality.
Beneath his aloof and distant exterior, Healer actually is hungry for human connection.
We also see Jung Hoo’s desire for human connection in his ultimatum to Teacher (Oh Kwang Rok): Show yourself by sunset, or else. Despite the crappy sort of manner in which Teacher had left him to fend for himself, he’s still the only family Jung Hoo ever had, and he is clearly unwilling to lose that connection. In spite of everything, he loves Teacher, and deeply too.
That depth of love is clearest in episode 14, in Jung Hoo’s reaction when he realizes that Teacher had died; it’s so guttural, and so primal, almost. He can’t think straight, and can only think to charge over to Moon Shik and kill him.
Jung Hoo’s wildcat instincts and intense love come together in this moment, and manifest themselves in a crazed, superhuman kind of strength; we see him flinging people away from him – at the police station grounds, and at the morgue – and it’s both breathtaking and alarming to behold.
As Jung Hoo gets clues to his past, his impulsive, rebellious, hot-headed streak shows itself, as he defies both Moon Ho and Ahjumma in their efforts to reason with him. It makes him feel very human, in spite of his practically superhuman abilities to scale tall buildings like spiderman.
Against my better judgment, I actually feel quite drawn to Jung Hoo’s rebellious streak. In his rebellious moments, I found him to be.. daring and ballsy, and that upped the cool, in my (admittedly smitten) eyes.
The boy falling in love, for the first time
I’ve got a whole other section planned for the OTP, but I just wanted to focus here for a bit, on this facet of Jung Hoo; of the innocent boy, falling in love for the very first time.
As Jung Hoo’s feelings for Young Shin grow and solidify, the way he looks at her gets more intense, and I found it all very mesmerizing indeed. There’s an underlying conflictedness about that intensity which just makes it land with even more poignancy. Every time he gets That Look on his face now, it looks like he’s been hit in the gut, the emotions are hitting him so hard. And when he looks like that, I feel like I just got hit in the gut.
I love the layered manner that Show treats Jung Hoo’s growing feelings for Young Shin. Just as his wildcat core comes into play in the way that he loves others in his life, they come to the fore in the way that he cares about Young Shin as well. Like in episode 9 when Jung Hoo trails Young Shin as Healer, and walks with her as she leaves Moon Ho’s apartment; it’s just so superhero swoony.
In the midst of all this, the little beats make it really pop. His amusement at her singing, where he starts to bop along for a bit before catching himself. And his long gazes of conflicted intensity as he walks alongside her on the rooftop, several levels above her. And those continued hit-in-the-gut gazes as he watches her intently as they speak on the phone. Love it. So much. ❤️
Young Shin talking about Healer to Jung Hoo always seems to hit him deeply. In this episode, she calls him (as Bong Soo) and admits shyly that she’s waiting and hoping to see Healer. Her confession clearly messes with his brain, and you can practically see the cogs in Jung Hoo’s brain go into overdrive as he processes what it all means.
It’s so poignant, really, that an Amazing Almost Superhero kind of person like him, is basically stunned into silence at the thought that someone like Young Shin could, well, actually like him.
That sense of uncertainty continues to show itself even in the later episodes, when our OTP is cemented. Like in episode 18, when Young Shin informs a cuddles-focused, window-climbing Jung Hoo that he ought to come in through the door like a regular person and introduce himself to her dad (Park Sang Myun), he does just that. And it’s hilarious because Jung Hoo as himself is all nervous, darty-eyed and literally about to jump out of his skin. There’s just something so adorable and yet poignant, about Badass Healer being so skittish in front of his girlfriend’s Dad. ❤️
His growth journey
In episode 15, Jung Hoo says to Ahjumma, “The real me? What is that? Does that exist?”
Jung Hoo, in wanting to offer Young Shin the real him, realizes that he’s not even sure who the real him is. He’s been taking on so many identities, and keeping his real identity hidden for so long, that he’s lost sight of who the real him is. In a manner of speaking, the entire show is about Jung Hoo’s journey towards finding and learning about himself.
Even though, when we first meet Jung Hoo, he’s all Badass Almost Superhuman Healer leaping from rooftops, over time, the focus shifts to something a little more personal. His conflictedness – about his feelings towards Young Shin, about his undercover mission, and about his own past – starts to show up, and he starts to betray more emotion than ever before, which all comes together to remind us that Healer isn’t a classic superhero; he’s human too.
Beyond the growth that is sparked by his personal relationships, we eventually start to see that there is another layer at play too that’s larger; that’s about feeling like he’s part of something, where everyone’s working together towards a common goal. That sense of community, as he begins to work with the team that Moon Ho has assembled, is something that’s been missing from Jung Hoo’s entire life, and it’s gratifying to see him working hard so as not to let the team down.
Jung Hoo’s growth-in-degrees, from being a lonely wounded wildcat to finally finding himself, and allowing himself to be happy, and allowing himself to have a community, is a journey that I found compelling, heartrending, and hand-on-my-heart absolutely well worth taking.
Park Min Young as Young Shin
I just have to say, this is my favorite role of Park Min Young, hands-down. Before Healer, I’d seen her in just a handful of dramas – namely, Unstoppable High Kick, Sungkyunkwan Scandal and City Hunter – and had always had pretty much the same impression of her: very pretty and possessing a winsome smile, but nothing to shout about in terms of her acting chops.
I take it all back now, coz Park Min Young as Young Shin is wonderful.
There’s a simple matter-of-fact quality in the way she plays Young Shin, and there is absolutely no vanity in her delivery. I literally watched this entire show without feeling like Park Min Young’s prettiness was the first thing to hit me. Instead, it was always consistently Young Shin’s realness that hit me first – and stayed with me. Park Min Young makes Young Shin come alive in a highly relatable way that made me not only feel like Young Shin was a real person, but someone that I really really wanted to be friends with.
Like Jung Hoo, there are many dimensions to Young Shin. She’s bright, sassy, a touch vulnerable, good-natured, and hard-to-get-down. At the same time, she’s full of big talk, ballsy and brave even when she’s feeling scared on the inside, and also, a little oblivious at times, to top it off.
Add on the fact that she’s the kind of girl who throws herself into singing in her jammies and rocking out with her dad, and I just can’t help but love her. Add on the other fact that Young Shin is all of this, having survived an extremely painful childhood, and I can’t help but love her even more.
I literally have not enjoyed Park Min Young more, in a role.
Again, I feel like it’s impossible the contain all of Young Shin’s facets within a single section and be able to talk about them properly, but here are a handful of highlights.
She’s strong and sassy
I love that Young Shin is a girl with a dream, and that dream has nothing to do with meeting a chaebol, or snagging a husband, or seeking revenge. It’s to be a reporter who does meaningful things. Which already sets her apart from so many other kdrama heroines. Plus, I do like the detail, that she’s an equal opportunity sort of gal, who has a male and a female role model.
I also love the fact that despite Jung Hoo’s amazing skills as Healer, that Young Shin’s no easy assignment. I find it quite impressive – and very cute – that Young Shin’s training in petty crime from her “friends” comes in handy to make her a difficult target for Jung Hoo.
The fact that she seriously contemplated suicide when she was just a little kid, just makes her strength in her adulthood all the more worthy of respect. And yet, beneath the strength, when she talks about her suicidal moments like she does in episode 2, the pain feels raw, and the wounds, open. There’s something very moving about how she chooses strength, when she has every excuse to choose self-pity. I just can’t help but love that about her.
Throughout the show, we see evidence that Young Shin is someone who cares, and cares deeply. Here are just a few times when that caring streak in her captured my heart.
1. The time in episode 2 when she trades her long-awaited scoop to look into someone else who seems to be in trouble. And I appreciate the moment that she hesitates over it; it makes her feel human.
2. When Young Shin promptly takes Bong Soo under her wing at work, and starts mothering him, even dragging him along the road by the wrist, like he’s a little kid who might run off if she didn’t hold on tight. Hee. I love Young Shin’s protective mama hen kind of attitude towards Bong Soo. Not like she really can protect him from anything, but she seems to fiercely believe that she can, and she does it consistently. Like in episode 5, right after the police get to her, after Healer saves her from the Double S guys. One of her first thoughts is Bong Soo’s safety. Aw.
3. I love that that nurturing attitude isn’t limited to those whom she feels can’t protect themselves, but also extends to Healer, whom she completely looks up to, and is fully aware that he’s a highly skilled kick-ass individual. Yet in episode 9, when Moon Ho holds a stammering post-rescue Young Shin, all she can fixate on is that Healer almost got killed because of her. That is the one thing that seems to haunt her, not the fact that she herself nearly got killed.
Plus, there’s the time in episode 13, when Young Shin chooses to pretend to buy Jung Hoo’s very unconvincing cover story. She later says it’s because she’s afraid that he’ll leave, but at the same time, doesn’t this show that top of her mind is also the fact that Healer can’t have his identity known? I believe that she held back as much to protect him, as to keep him nearby.
I love that Young Shin’s such a nurturing, protective person.
She’s brave, even when she’s scared
Perhaps James Neil Hollingworth put it best when he wrote, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one’s fear.”
That’s exactly that quality in Young Shin that I find particularly endearing; she’s brave even when she’s scared half to death. Like in episode 5, in the way that she chooses to face President Hwang; she’s clearly at a disadvantage, but even when she’s heaving for breath and he’s glowering down at her threateningly, she won’t back down. Or the time in episode 10, when Young Shin forges ahead with her mission despite her nerves.
Whenever Young Shin is faced with a scary situation, she consistently takes courage in the face of fear. She consistently judges that something – or someone – else is more important than her own fear, and pushes herself forward anyway. There’s just something really admirable about that.
She’s quick to forgive
Perhaps my most favorite thing about Young Shin, is how she is so quick to forgive. She doesn’t harbor grudges, and the fact that she’s grown up so well-adjusted in spite of her traumatic childhood, is itself evidence of that quality about her.
The time that we see this trait in Young Shin come to the fore, is in episode 16. After having multiple bombshells dropped on her about the truth of her own identity – and by extension, Myung Hee’s identity as her bio mom, as well as Jung Hoo’s identity as the son of the man who supposedly killed her father – she huddles and hides for a time. But it isn’t very long before she reaches out to call Jung Hoo, and it isn’t very long after that, before we see her going to Moon Ho with coffee, cake and smiles, and asking curious questions about everything.
I love that about her, that she can’t stay mad for long. And I love the wonder with which she takes in all the information that Moon Ho gives her in response to her questions. Her delight that Jung Hoo’s her oppa by just one month, is so cute. How can one not love her, right? ❤️
Yoo Ji Tae as Moon Ho
I will admit that Moon Ho was a character that I found difficult to connect with, for most of Show’s run. To Show’s credit, though, this was clearly a deliberate choice, and not, say, a fault with the writing or execution.
Moon Ho is, by design, a character that’s hard to pin down. He’s mysterious, and his motivations are kept ambiguous to us for a long stretch. As I watched the show, so many questions about Moon Ho flooded my mind. [SPOILERS] Is he really as noble and for-the-people as he claims to be? Is he addicted to his fame and popularity as one-time quasi-girlfriend Min Jae (Woo Hee Jin) claims he is? Why is he at odds with his brother? Why is he searching for Young Shin? Why is he engaging night courier services? [END SPOILERS] What’s behind that cryptic smile?
So many questions, and, for the most part, not many answers, when it came to Moon Ho.
It was really only after watching the show that I came to appreciate how a skilled actor like Yoo Ji Tae was really needed to do justice to the role. Moon Ho is a character with many facets and layers. There’s the smiling facade that is bemusingly hard to read, but it occasionally cracks to reveal layers of complex angst within him.
While my personal understanding of Moon Ho as a character felt slow and therefore occasionally frustrating, I must admit that Yoo Ji Tae does an amazing job of delivering him. He comes across as intriguing right off the bat, and is masterful at the wordless, complicated gaze that Moon Ho often wears.
I came way from this show thoroughly impressed by Yoo Ji Tae as an actor (and yes, this show was my introduction to him too, since I don’t watch all that many k-movies and that’s where he spends most of his time).
When I found him dark & dubious
For a good half of Show’s run, there were distinct occasions when I found Moon Ho’s character rather disturbing. The more disturbing I found him, the harder I found it to like him. In fact, sometimes I wasn’t even sure I was supposed to like him.
Here’s a quick list of some of those moments where I found Moon Ho’s behavior disturbing.
1. When Moon Ho tests the waters with Myung Hee in episode 5 and asks her, “What if Ji An were alive?”
The entire scene seemed cruel to my then-uninformed-eyes, because it seemed to me that he tested the waters knowing that it would bring on a fit. Not telling Myung Hee about Ji An also seemed cruel to me, because it was clear that Myung Hee was deeply heartbroken over Ji An’s death.
2. There’s a moment in episode 6 when Moon Ho’s expression becomes dark, hard and almost foreboding, during his phone conversation with Young Shin about the exposé in her hands. Given that Young Shin is clearly our heroine, and that Moon Ho’s expression as he lays out the facts about the industry to her, is anything but friendly, I found him distinctly unlikable in this moment. I found him two-faced and opaque.
3. In episode 8, Young Shin confronts Moon Ho about why he would be receiving emails from Healer. Moon Ho lies quickly on his feet, and manages a reasonable and convincing cover story. Which demonstrates how smart he is, but also shows us how natural the darker side comes to him.
4. In episode 9, Moon Ho says that Healer has no morals and no goodwill, but in the end, he’s the one who seems to skirt the boundaries of morality. Moon Ho requests Healer to give him a warning if the other side were to engage his services, and yet, he gives Healer no such benefit when he uses Healer’s information to get the cooperation of the detective. That’s a clear double standard. And the look on Moon Ho’s face as he offers up Healer to the detective, is deliberate, with a bit of dark, and a bit of relish as well.
All of this added up to make Moon Ho a very interesting character, but also a second lead that I didn’t trust.
When I found him sympathetic
Mixed in with Moon Ho’s darker behaviors, there are other moments that hint of the complexity of his hidden angst, sprinkled throughout the show.
Here’s a quick list of some of the moments where I felt his sincerity, at least in some measure.
1. In episode 2, when he receives news that Young Shin’s DNA sample is a confirmed match for the niece that he’s been searching for, his expression looks almost pained. That was the first hint, for me, that Moon Ho’s backstory and emotions were a lot less straightforward than most.
2. In episode 3, we see that Moon Ho has been having nightmares, all because he believes that he’s committed a sin, by keeping silent.
3. In episode 4, when Moon Ho asks Young Shin to leave the story to him, she takes it the wrong way, but he’s totally right about her not understanding just how precarious her situation is. In this moment, I believed that Moon Ho didn’t mean to steal her thunder, but to shield her.
4. In episode 7, there is a moment when we see Moon Ho’s eyes brimming with tears and emotion while looking at Young Shin during his flashback to the past. We see a similar moment in episode 11, when Moon Ho watches Jung Hoo walk away, and, with tears in his eyes, imagines Jung Hoo walking side by side with his father, displaying the exact mannerisms. In those moments of privacy when no one else is watching, the fact that Moon Ho’s eyes fill with tears, said so much to me, about his core of sincerity.
5. In episode 11, Moon Ho admits to Jung Hoo that he’d tipped off the police about Healer. I like that he came clean with that information without being prompted.
In these moments, I wanted to believe in the good in Moon Ho, because it was in these flashes of honesty and emotion, that I felt like I had glimpsed his truth.
My final takeaway
Because Moon Ho’s behavior dances back and forth on, around and between the line that divides the good and bad, and the moral and amoral (or even immoral), he effectively comes across as quite the mystery, for much of the show.
Yoo Ji Tae plays that moral ambiguity so very well too. When Moon Ho’s being nice, he’s got a boy-next-door quality to him, but when he’s allowing more of his dark side to show, he can look positively intimidating. Because of that, I felt conflicted about Moon Ho for a long time.
By episode 12, however, a piece clicked into place for me, that helped to shed quite a bit of light into Moon Ho as a character. He says to his brother Moon Shik that he’d always thought that he was a better person than his brother, but, “I’m becoming just like you.” It’s a sobering realization, and in that moment, I felt like there is a measure of self-loathing in Moon Ho’s voice.
He wants to think of himself as a better person, but deep down, he realizes that he isn’t really that good of a person. Perhaps Min Jae put it best, when she says to Moon Ho in episode 14, “Honestly, you have a lot of fear… Others say that you’re brave. But, no. You only fight enough, so you don’t get hurt.”
To Moon Ho’s credit, by the end of the show, he makes some tough decisions in favor of being the kind of person he would like to be. In episode 19, as Moon Ho watches Young Shin interact with Myung Hee, his smile shows how pleased he is, in the moment. It’s clear that he’s wanted this for a long time, even though he hasn’t made the bravest choices along that way.
It’s not like Moon Ho ever fully overcomes his weakness of character, but by Show’s end, it’s clear that while he may be weak and dubious at times, deep down, he does have a conscience and sincerely wants to do what’s right. Which is such a human, relatable thing, really – and is eventually what endeared him to me.
Kim Mi Kyung as Ahjumma
OMG I freaking LUFF Kim Mi Kyung as Hacker Ahjumma! ❤️
First of all, I love what a master hacker Ahjumma is. It totally breaks the mold of what one might expect a hacker to look like, and completely raises the bar for all other drama writers in terms of how not to pigeonhole women of a certain age. I just adore how amazing Ahjumma is at what she does; just watching her fingers flying over the keyboard gives me a buzz (hey! That rhymes! Whaddya know, Ahjumma brings out my inner poet! She IS amazing).
Second of all, I love her sass. She’s witty and smart-mouthed, and consistently unleashes her sauciness while wearing the most droll, deadpan expression. So cute.
Thirdly, I love that even though she ribs Jung Hoo, and flippantly interrupts his meals as a matter of habit and entertainment, yet, she always, always has his back. She’s caring and loyal underneath the droll insolence, and it’s awesome.
As an essential aside, I can’t help but give a shout-out to her adorable kimbap obsession and her fondness for knitting, even while she keeps a hawk eye on her multiple computer screens. Guh. I lurve Ahjumma! ❤️
As we get deeper into the show, we learn more about Ahjumma, and I have to say, her backstory completely gutted me.
I mean, to have lost her son – and thereafter her husband too; effectively, her entire family – because of her dedication to her job, but then to be told to cover up the very case that cost her everything? Augh. What a price to pay, for a job that wasn’t even worth it. It’s no wonder she went guerrilla, and now looks at most things with an air of cynicism.
Despite her painful past, Ahjumma cares deeply for Jung Hoo, and I love that. We see this most in episode 14, when Ahjumma gets all dressed up and goes to the cafe to talk with Young Shin, all for Jung Hoo’s sake. For his sake, she’s coming out of her lair; for his sake, she’s harnessing Young Shin’s help; for his sake, she’s checking Young Shin’s gaze, to make sure that it’s ok to tell her.
Aw. So much love, right there. You just can’t not love Ahjumma. ❤️
Park Sang Won as Moon Shik
Moon Shik is one of Show’s major antagonists, and Park Sang Won plays him with a smug, almost serene sense of self-righteousness that I found suitably aggravating, particularly as we got into the later stretch of the show.
To Show’s credit, Moon Shik is one of the more complex antagonists that I’ve seen in dramaland, and Show makes efforts to unveil his layers of angst and humanize him, even while his behavior remained inexcusable.
I never actually felt sympathetic to his character, but by Show’s end, I felt like I could understand how a person in his situation might have made the decisions he did.
One of the things that I found most despicable about Moon Shik, is how he seemed to genuinely believe that he was innocent of wrongdoing, in spite of doing many things that were Very Bad Indeed.
Just for the record, here are just a handful of times when I was appalled by Moon Shik’s behavior.
1. In episode 12, I was shocked at Moon Shik’s ability to smile at Young Shin and make jovial small talk, when he was the one who had allowed her to stay lost and therefore, by omission, was the one who had abandoned her.
2. In the same episode, Moon Shik uses Jung Hoo’s mom to lure Healer. I mean, that’s someone whom he knows, the wife of the friend that he ostensibly killed, and all he has to say about it is, “It’s too bad. I didn’t want to go this far.” His phrasing is especially telling; it absolves him of responsibility. He’s basically saying that Healer’s non-response is forcing his hand. Ugh.
3. We see in episode 15, in Moon Shik’s conversation with Moon Ho, that Moon Shik seems to honestly believe that he’s done nothing wrong, because Secretary Oh has done all the dirty work. Which is so delusional.
4. The fact that Moon Shik demands the best for Teacher’s funeral, when he’s the one who ordered him killed, is just sick.
5. I cannot believe how cold and calculated Moon Shik is, when in episode 16, he doesn’t even hesitate when his men ask if push comes to shove, where his priorities lie. He’d choose the tape over Jung Hoo’s life. And yet, he thinks he’s a good person. Just, how?
Intermittently, we see evidence of Moon Shik’s mental instability, in the form of his hallucinations of his dead friends. And while I do feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t have control of his right mind, I absolutely don’t excuse any of Moon Shik’s lies and crimes. For the record, I do think Show let him off rather easily (more on that later).
Park Sang Myun as Young Shin’s Dad
Awwww. Dadddd. ❤️
Young Shin’s Dad is one of my favorite secondary characters in this show. He’s literally one of the sweetest, most awesome dads I’ve seen in dramaland. He’s patient, supportive, caring, and loving, and manages to be protective while being an enabler. Plus, through it all, he’s completely present in his daughter’s life, while possessing a sense of humor.
Altogether, that about makes him a thousand times better than the average kdrama dad, right?
The thing that moved me most about Dad, is how he chose Young Shin at the orphanage, when she’d been a scrawny kid who wouldn’t eat nor play. I love that flashback of Dad coaxing a distrusting Young Shin out of her shell. It’s terribly sad, that Young Shin suffered so much as a child, but Dad is so kind and so awesome, in how he starts to build a connection with her. He didn’t force anything on Young Shin then, frightened and suspicious as she was; he simply waited for her, and then loved her.
Sweet Dad really is her savior, and I love him, So Much, for how well he’s loved Young Shin to wholeness. ❤️
Do Ji Won as Myung Hee
Even though Myung Hee is a relatively minor character who doesn’t get as much screen time as some of our other characters, Do Ji Won does such a good job in the role that I couldn’t help but feel impressed anyway.
I love the sweet energy that Do Ji Won gives Myung Hee, who comes across as infinitely graceful and warm in spite of her disability. I love that Myung Hee gets a growth arc of her own, and that we get to witness it.
First of all, I just have to give a shout-out to Do Ji Won’s delivery of Myung Hee’s seizures. Each of the fits felt completely real, and I found them utterly unnerving to watch; she was so good.
I was also very impressed with her delivery of Myung Hee’s growing troubled-ness over suspicions of what was really going on with her husband. It was all very convincingly played, and given that Myung Hee often broods alone, very impressively conveyed indeed.
One of my favorite Myung Hee moments is when Myung Hee takes it upon herself to find out the truth. Her inner reporter came gloriously to the surface as she planted bugs and kept tabs on her husband, and alerted Moon Ho to her findings. I like that in the process, she regains some personal agency, and demonstrates her steely inner core.
I also love the way Myung Hee leaves Moon Shik in episode 19. She’s got tears in her eyes, but she’s not having a seizure, and she’s not assigning blame. She just doesn’t trust him, and has better things to do with her life now than be his trophy wife. She’s going to find her own daughter, whether he likes it or not, and I want to give her a standing ovation, not only for what she does, but also, the matter-of-fact, steely manner in which she does it. So good.
Oh Kwang Rok as Teacher
I have a big ol’ soft spot for Oh Kwang Rok, coz he so often plays sweet underdog types, like his Sweet Dad role in High School King. I love that here, as Teacher, he gets to show off a bit of badassery, while still lending the role his signature brand of sweet.
The thing that lingers most with me, with Teacher, is how he’s essentially very selfless, in spite of Jung Hoo’s accusations of abandonment.
It’s true that Ahjusshi left Jung Hoo in a terribly insensitive and abrupt manner, but it’s also true that Ahjusshi had literally put his own life on hold for years, to train Jung Hoo. That’s more than most of us would do, so I’m unwilling to judge him too harshly.
Plus, in spite of it all, Ahjusshi cares deeply about Jung Hoo. We see this in episode 13, when he jumps in to save Jung Hoo without hesitation. It only hints at what is to come, that Teacher dies to save Jung Hoo. When he felt the poison in his body, he didn’t even attempt to ask for help. He simply plowed on, and made the best he could out of the situation. You can almost hear him thinking, “Ah. I’ve been poisoned. I should make the best of my time and create a cover for Jung Hoo.” Tears. Teach showed tough love to Jung Hoo all the way, and sometimes, didn’t even seem to really care. But in this one moment, we see that Teach really does care. He cares enough to die for Jung Hoo. Oof.
On top of it all, Teacher’s last message to Jung Hoo is so kind. He even smiles for the camera as he tells Jung Hoo, “Give it up. Go live with the woman you love, raising two kids, a dog, two cats, a few goldfish. I should have.”
Augh. Just so, so kind. ❤️
Jang Sung Bum as Jong Soo
Heh. I couldn’t help a lightning-quick spotlight on Jong Soo. I found him funny, and I love that even though he was consistently at Moon Ho’s mercy, he was always, always loyal.
There are so many relationships worth talking about in this show – which is evidence of some excellent writing – but it’s pretty much impossible to talk about them all. I’m gonna just zoom in on some of the more interesting relationships, with (quite a bit of) special attention on my favorite – the OTP. ❤️
Jung Hoo and Young Shin
Ji Chang Wook and Park Min Young share a fantastic, crackling chemistry as our OTP. Whether Jung Hoo and Young Shin are in a romantic space in their relationship or not, their interactions feel completely natural and organic. They are just so comfortable with each other. There is no stiffness between them whatsoever, and the result is an OTP that is amazingly easy to lose oneself in.
I lost my heart to this OTP completely, and I felt along with them, and held my breath with them, and flailed along with them, all the way to the very end. ❤️
These two are among my all-time favorite OTPs, ever.
I.. realize that I have so much that I’d like to say about this OTP that I’m not even sure how to cover it all. So I’m gonna break this section up into 3 parts, to make it easier for me to keep things straight in my head, and also, to make it easier for you guys to navigate (if you prefer to skip ahead): 1. The road to romance, 2. Why this OTP works so well, for me, and 3. Squee-worthy moments.
1. The road to romance
One of the things that Show does so well, is tease out the development of the OTP relationship in a way that feels natural and organic, in spite of the slightly fantastical premise.
More often than I’d like, dramas tend to fast-track the development of the OTP relationship using several key incidents, along with a hearty helping of tropes and romantic shorthand, to get the OTP to go from strangers at their meet-cute, to a couple that’s madly in love with each other.
Not with this show, not with this writer, and not with this OTP – and for that, I am extremely grateful.
Along with a journey of several milestones, writer-nim takes care to tease out our OTP’s feelings and develop them in a believable fashion, while imbuing their connection with meaning. Love that.
Here, I’m just going to highlight some the key milestones in Jung Hoo’s evolving feelings towards Young Shin. Because Young Shin is written as a girl who’s sunny and who reaches out easily to connect with others, and also because Young Shin already has a strong interest in Healer when we first meet her, Jung Hoo is the harder sell, and where Show chooses to focus, at least at first.
(1) There’s curiosity
I love Jung Hoo’s responses to Young Shin, as his curiosity about her grows. It’s quite thrilling to see his bemusement evolve into a genuine curiosity about her, which then builds upon itself until he’s fascinated by her – and eventually can’t help but care about her.
While all this is going on, Young Shin continues to be her cheery, quirky, likable self, and I found myself falling for her, right along with Jung Hoo.
My favorite Curious Jung Hoo moment is in episode 3, when Jung Hoo hides under Young Shin’s bed while she talks to herself and then starts singing and dancing. I love the bemused incredulous faces that Jung Hoo flashes as he hides under the bed (priceless), particularly when Young Shin starts changing her clothes and kicks her pajama pants over his face. So funny!
(2) There’s growing care
Along with the curiosity arc, we see Jung Hoo starting to care about Young Shin, in spite of himself. I found this easy to believe, since all the time that he spends observing her is time we’ve spent observing her too. I found myself caring about her, right along with Jung Hoo. Which means that when Jung Hoo showed flashes of care towards Young Shin, I cheered.
Like in episode 5, when Jung Hoo asks Ahjumma whether the Double S guys would torture or hurt Young Shin. And in episode 8, when Young Shin falls asleep in the car, and Jung Hoo drives with her head in his hand.
These are small beats interspersed in the curiosity arc, and these small beats really add up. On their own, they’re already rather melty, but added up, they build up really nicely towards the bigger, more dramatic moments. I loved watching Jung Hoo’s flickers of care for Young Shin as he softened towards her, in spite of himself.
(3) Bouts of jealousy
Jealousy is a great catalyst when it’s used well, and I must say, it’s put to judicious, savvy use by writer-nim.
Just when Jung Hoo’s becoming more hyper-aware of Young Shin, there’s occasion for him to feel peevish – like in episode 10, when he overhears Young Shin’s giddy, enthusiastic phone call with Moon Ho. Jung Hoo’s displeasure is clear as day; he hates that Young Shin is this affected by Moon Ho. Even funnier, Jung Hoo gets to be jealous of himself too, since Young Shin’s other crush is on Healer – but sees him as nerdy Bong Soo.
I found Jealous Jung Hoo endlessly amusing. And while I loved the fun of watching him squirm, there was also that added thrill of what it all meant: growing feeeelings. Eee!
(4) The desire to be honest
The evolution of Jung Hoo’s feelings towards Young Shin culminates in that Moment in episode 11, when Jung Hoo tells Ahjumma that he wants to tell Young Shin about himself, to come clean.
Squee. Swoon. Flail.
Plus, I love the fact that Jung Hoo homes in on the fact that he feels safe with Young Shin. Augh, that’s the stuff of warm fuzzies. On top of it all, the look on his face, as he says this, is so full. There’s a lot of burgeoning emotion behind the expression: caution, yet wistfulness; hope, and a warming in his heart, and I love it. ❤️
2. Why this couple works so well, for me
Beyond the swoon of cracky chemistry and growing feelings, there are deeper things about this OTP connection that move me.
There’s shared empathy
I appreciate that even though Show gives Jung Hoo and Young Shin a childhood past, that this doesn’t come off with a Fated First Love sort of vibe. Instead, the vibe it gives off is that of shared experience, matter-of-fact and poignant in one. Both Jung Hoo and Young Shin have painful childhoods, and bear the scars to go with, and neither of them actually talks about that past much at all.
Yet, this painful commonality is something that enables them to identify with each other, at a very fundamental level.
In episode 2, when Jung Hoo listens to (and films) Young Shin talking about her own past to help Suicidal Unni off the ledge of the building, he refuses to record the shared tears following after. Which makes me feel that Young Shin’s sharing about her painful childhood resonated with him on a pretty deep level.
In episode 5, Jung Hoo compares Young Shin with the leopard in the documentary who wouldn’t back down, even when it knew it had no chance of survival. It’s a point on which he can identify with Young Shin, since Jung Hoo shares that style and attitude, of not backing down just because the situation doesn’t appear favorable.
Because both Jung Hoo and Young Shin are survivors who have come through the fire with steely won’t-back-down attitudes in spite of their scars, I feel like they can truly understand each other in ways that others can’t.
He calms her and makes her feel safe
There’s just something about Jung Hoo that calms Young Shin, who suffers violence-triggered panic attacks as a result of her childhood trauma.
Young Shin may not know it yet (at the time), but she just seems drawn to Jung Hoo. Whether she’s half asleep, or hyperventilating in the office, or in the elevator – and whether Jung Hoo is Healer or Bong Soo – she’s automatically calmed each time she reaches for Jung Hoo’s hand. And oh man, the Look in Jung Hoo’s eyes each time, as she clings to his arm, is so full of heart.
I just love that she feels safe with him.
She makes him want to live and connect
I love that Young Shin makes Jung Hoo want to connect. When we first meet him, he’s determined to buy and move to his own island and leave the world behind. And yet, spending time with Young Shin makes Jung Hoo want differently. Eventually, we see him wanting to find a way to live in this world, with Young Shin, as the real him.
I believe a big part of it, is coming to terms with the fact that he can be loved, and that he can receive love. In episode 10, we see that Jung Hoo is hit hard, by knowing that Young Shin cares about him (as Healer).
Essentially, every time he looks like that in the show, is when she shows him that she cares for him and understands him. It kills me a little, that Jung Hoo hasn’t had any of that all his life, and that’s pretty much why it hits him this hard. There’s an unfamiliarity to it, which is part of his stunned vibe.
I love that Young Shin is the one who shows him that he’s precious, and that he is worthy to be loved. And I love that this basically helps him to see life in a whole new way.
I’m coming to realize that a guy manhandling his female lead is one of my pet drama peeves. All too often, this manhandling is portrayed as romantic and desirable (like in recently-wrapped drama Beautiful Gong Shim, for example), and even though I used to swoon along with everyone else in my early drama-watching days, I find that it really bothers me now.
In a show like this, where Badass Healer really does manhandle Young Shin in the earlier episodes (like when he was on assignment getting her DNA sample, or rescuing her), I appreciate all the more, the care that is taken to show us that this isn’t how Jung Hoo relates with Young Shin romantically.
In episode 19, after Jung Hoo and Young Shin are reunited after the kidnapping arc, I love that Jung Hoo doesn’t impose his hug on her, but opens his arms, and she is the one who delves into them with so much need and relief.
Connection, on every level
With this OTP, connection is a recurring (& very meaningful) theme.
Jung Hoo’s always been isolated from the world at large, and he’s never been one to make connections with others. But when Young Shin comes into his life, she’s the one who starts reaching out for him, on a regular basis. When he trails her as Healer and takes her bag, she chases him down. When he shows up at work as Park Bong Soo, she grabs his wrist on his first day, and walks with him like that. On the roof, she reaches for, and touches his chest.
Eventually, he reaches out too, like the time he’s instructed by Moon Ho via Ahjumma not to have any contact with Young Shin, and he willfully reaches out and touches her on the forehead, to make contact.
She reaches out to him first, and that’s how he learns to reach out too. I love that.
3. Squee-worthy scenes
There are so many OTP scenes that I find memorable and special, that I simply could not pick just a few favorites. So here’re more than just a few of my favorites. 😉
I love this slo-mo dash in episode 5, where Young Shin thinks she’s protecting Bong Soo by grabbing his hand and running out of the fray. That alone is super cute, but what makes me swoon into a puddle is the way Jung Hoo steals a satisfied, amused, affectionate smirk at Young Shin.
I love this phone conversation between Young Shin and Jung Hoo in episode 6.
On the one hand, we see him being Badass Healer, leaping off a tall building without even betraying a change in his breathing pattern, while on the phone with Young Shin. Eee! So. Breathtaking. On the other hand, it’s sweet, coz the whole reason he’s leaping off the building, is so that he can see Young Shin’s face while she talks to him. I love how he gets as close to her as possible. ❤️
Even more, I love the look on Jung Hoo’s face when Young Shin admits that she’s got a crush on a night courier, and the realization starts to hit. The stunned shock. The disbelief. The look in his eyes, and the softest hint of the sheen of tears, like he can’t believe someone feels anything for him. Oof.
I also love the opposite confessions, that she’s got a crush on Healer, and feels like Bong Soo is her sister. Jung Hoo’s face at both confessions is priceless. His stunned shock to realize she’s talking about having a crush on him (as Healer), followed quickly by a quick flash of amused pleasure on his face at her confession that she feels comfortable with him (as Bong Soo), then followed by completely incredulous bemusement at her estimation that it feels like they’re sisters. Ha!
I love this scene in episode 7. The chest-touching and handholding is fleeting, but crackling intensity fills the moment. OMG the way he looks at her, it’s so intense. And the way he walks up close to her and leans in. Oof.
And the hands. It’s the first time their hands meet like this. She, reaching out to touch him, and he, reaching up to hold her hand briefly, on the necessary pretext of putting it away from him. Plus, the sexy lower registers of his voice, so alluringly sexy.
The way Jung Hoo looks at Young Shin is one of my favorite things in this show, because it always feels like there’s so much emotion there.
Like this moment in episode 8, when a rather despondent Young Shin confesses why she’s upset & therefore preening for the camera:
“Hello everyone. You are looking at a woman who has been rejected by her Crushes 1 and 2 simultaneously, who is here with clear mind to report all the same.” … “Number 1 called this woman a human shield, and Number 2 thinks of her as a delusional attention seeker. However, let us forget this readily. Like a sad dream conjured in the middle of the night, which goes like darkness at the light of dawn. Let us forget. Let us pretend it never happen-“
Throughout Young Shin’s rambling, Jung Hoo just looks at her, and the way he looks at her is intense. He’s mesmerized and yet the brave face that she puts on seems to touch him and twist him up inside, all at once. Augh.
The elevator shaft rescue + rooftop kiss
I love-love-love the combination of the elevator shaft rescue with the rooftop kiss in episode 8.
The way Healer rescues Young Shin is swift, daring and so badass. He moves so quickly and decisively, and his rescue is so confident and precise. Swoon. I love that Young Shin tearfully yells at Healer afterwards, for putting himself in danger over her, a mere paycheck. Aw, it shows that beyond the mortification, she really cares.
This is the turning point for Jung Hoo, coz at this point, his description of himself is all in the past tense:
“After becoming alone, up till now, I hadn’t wished for anything from another person. And so, I was fine.” … “I didn’t care at all whether anyone understood or misunderstood me. I was like that.”
…Which means that now with Young Shin, he does wish for something from her, he does care that she understands. And that’s probably why he kisses her. And it’s such a gentle, tender kiss, when she feels most vulnerable. Importantly, he takes off his gloves before he does; it’s not business, it’s personal. And then there’s the way he pauses and just looks at her, before tentatively, gently, moving in for the kiss. Swoon.
I love the after-kiss moments just as much. The way he looks at her is actually hotter than the kiss itself; he’s smoldering with so much unspoken emotion. And OMG it occurs to me that because of Healer’s loner tendencies all these years, that was probably his first kiss, ever.
To make a perfect scene even more perfect, I love that Healer’s legs give way under him, and his vital signs go into overdrive, post-kiss. So heart-tuggingly adorable. I was worried for a second, thinking that maybe he’d fractured his leg in the process of the rescue and was feeling it only now, but then I realized that this was his body reacting post-adrenaline, and it’s just really sweet to know that Young Shin affects him that much. Healer, who, as per Ahjumma’s description, wouldn’t fall even if someone threw him down, actually went soft in the legs and tripped, because of Young Shin. Aw. ❤️
The rooftop confession
I love how Jung Hoo leans in meaningfully, wanting to lay a kiss on Young Shin’s forehead. Though he doesn’t get to do it, that intent in his eyes and the slow way he leans in, is full of meaning and tension, and it definitely brings the feels. So swoony.
My heart completely melted at Jung Hoo’s confession, and his offer to stay by her side, living the way she wants him to; so earnest, serious and sincere. I really felt like this is Jung Hoo ready to give up his entire existence as Healer, to be Bong Soo by her side. Forever.
Wow. That’s a very big offer, and it blows me away that Jung Hoo wants to be with Young Shin this much. It’s almost like Superman offering to give up being Superman. The magnitude of his offer, made so unassumingly, simply takes my breath away.
OMG the date. It’s so swoon-worthy, though it borders a touch on creepy, having a date with someone whose face you can’t see. Suspension of disbelief is required, but I suspended it willingly for the sake of the OTP awesome.
Young Shin not turning around to look at him, but being so very aware of his presence, lifts the romantic tension quite a few notches. It makes me feel like she can feel him in the room, even though she can’t see him. And that moment when he reaches out to grab her hand: Eee!!! He doesn’t want her to go, isn’t ready for her to go. And reckless as it is, he reaches for her, touches her.
That tender touching of their hands, isn’t just a regular hand-hold. It’s the summation of their feelings for each other, spilling out and being expressed in that one single touch. Tenderness, wistfulness, the whole sentiment of I-want-more, and I-wish-I-could-give-more, coming together in such a burgeoning, full, shared moment, where their hands linger for as long as possible, and they each savor the moment, as much as possible.
Oof. So good. ❤️
Her hand remembers
It’s so great that it’s the handhold that clues Young Shin to Bong Soo’s real identity. I love how she pieces the clues together in her mind. They say that muscle memory is a powerful thing, and I love that even when Young Shin’s brain doesn’t register that Bong Soo is Healer, her hand remembers him. Swoon.
The folded paper star is such a sweet touch too. In that one item, she knows that he was there with her when she was waiting for him, and that he came, and that he cared enough to save that star as a keepsake. And I love how she now realizes what Bong Soo had meant on the rooftop, about living the way she wanted, and staying next to her, if she’d let him. She knows that he was willing to give up being Healer, for her. Wow.
The realization’s aftermath
I love the conversation that Young Shin has with Jung Soo in episode 13, as a result of him choosing east instead of west.
First, I love that when he realizes that west would’ve been a hug, he immediately says that he wants to change his choice. Cuteness! Second, I love everything that is said, in all its sideways hidden forms. Young Shin, telling him that she’d holding back because she wants to hug him, and kiss him, and hold his hand. That must totally mess with his mind! And how he says that that person must have a reason, and Young Shin says she knows, and that she’s waiting. Such important messages from both of them to each other.
Third, I love how he tries to react and respond to her, but fails. How she leans her head momentarily on his shoulder, and how he tries to touch her hair but fails coz she moves away, and how their hands brush ever so lightly together as she starts to leave, and how he tries to reach for her in that same moment, but she’s moved away. So well played, the timing is so perfect, and that movement, so reminiscent of the back to back handholding we had at the theatre.
Lastly, I love how Jung Hoo suddenly seems to tower over her. He suddenly appears so large and tall and broad and manly, and I swoon.
Connecting in the cave
I just have to say it: I love everything about this scene in the cave, in episode 14.
First, Jung Hoo thinking that Young Shin is a dream, and pronouncing it “daebak” despite his weakened condition. Really cute. And then how she climbs into bed to hold him, when he says he’s cold; so sweet. What totally gets me is how he snuggles into her. He finds comfort in her embrace, and it shows, and I love it.
That whole scene, of Jung Hoo trying to get Young Shin to leave, and Young Shin refusing to, is so great. I love that she’s not afraid of him, even though he’s being cold and surly, and almost threatening. Plus, Jung Hoo post-Healer-reveal, has consistently looked really tall and broad, and so with the surly demeanor, he does actually look a little threatening. But Young Shin, completely unafraid of him, refusing to leave his side, just breaks through his defenses.
The way he crumples into her and starts to cry – oof – my heart broke for him, that he was in so much pain. But my heart also welled up for him, that he was able to release some of that pain in the arms of the one he loves.
And then there’s the way she wipes the tears from his eyes, and how she leans in to kiss him, and how his lips lock on hers to kiss her right back. OMG. So swoony, and so very tender. ❤️
A sort-of tangent in defense of writer-nim
The issue of them sleeping together at this point, before he’s told her everything, before she knows his name even, was a sore point with quite a number of my dramaland friends. It felt like too much too soon for a lot of people, and I can understand that point of view.
At the same time, I do get where writer-nim is coming from, with this narrative choice.
Why sleep together now, at this point? Because, in Jung Hoo’s very raw state of pain, besides grieving Teacher’s death, he’s also grieving the loss of a connection. Jung Hoo has so few connections in the world. In shutting himself down and cutting himself off from the world, he disconnected with everything and everyone. And in this moment, Young Shin is connecting with him in the most profound way a human being can connect with another human being. Making love to him is the deepest, most complete way she can connect with him. Not with words, but going beyond words, to the heart and emotion and love that comes directly from her heart, that defy full expression in words.
Also, Jung Hoo’s been portrayed as socially awkward to some extent, because of how isolated he’s been for years, from the world at large. In his anger and hurt, he’s like an injured wildcat. Words can only do so much. She speaks to him in a language much more basic and fundamental, that reaches beyond his fears. It’s a primal, right-down-to-your-essence sort of connection, and Jung Hoo responds to it, sinks into it, clings to it.
We see him clinging to it in the way he keeps reaching for Young Shin the next day. He’s not “putting the moves on her.” He’s reaching for her, seeking to connect to her, in every possible moment, in any possible way, even if it’s just to drape himself over her as she prepares breakfast.
And Jung Hoo’s expression as he connects to her, is so multi-textured, and delivered so masterfully by Ji Chang Wook. I can feel Jung Hoo’s wonder, his need, his hunger, his comfort, and his pleasure as he cleaves to her. It’s just so, so beautiful, and fulfilling, and so gratifying to witness.
I love how he keeps reaching for her, like how he pulls her towards him even while she’s asleep. And when she wakes and thinks he’s not there, he’s right there just drinking in the sight of her, as much as his eyes can fill. In fact, in every moment that he reaches for her, touches her and kisses her, it feels like he’s just soaking her in, drinking of her presence. She’s like his life source right now, and he’s partaking of her presence like he’s parched. And so he should be, after being so isolated for so long.
To me, it all felt real and genuine; organic. This is the real him. Meeting the real her. And this is the new them. ❤️
She jumps into spy-mode
I think it’s adorable and all kinds of cool that Young Shin actively participates in Healer operations, and that she and Jung Hoo are able to work together so well.
I love the little moment when she listens in on Jung Hoo’s conversation with Ahjumma about the operation at hand, and gets this goofy grin on her face as she swoons at her boyfriend’s coolness. And I love the way Jung Hoo gets all wrapped up over the word “boyfriend” – it’s adorable. His face has that mix of wonder, pleasure, awkwardness and unfamiliarity all meshed into one, and it’s melty goodness.
There’s another little moment in episode 17, when Jung Hoo and Young Shin are in the car and Young Shin’s all in spy-mode and tsk-ing at the car on their tail. I love that Jung Hoo looks over at her with a stifled expression that’s a mix of amusement, pride, and how-can-my-girl-be-this-cool? LOVE.
“Even if you don’t find it, come back”
In episode 16, when Young Shin is unable to accept Jung Hoo’s efforts to connect, he respects her space and leaves quietly, promising to find evidence to prove that his father didn’t kill hers. I love that Young Shin takes only moments – moments! – to fly after him, and I love her earnest request, “You have to find it and come back.” And even better, “Even if you don’t find it, come back.” YES.
I love how she promises that she will look for that evidence too. She doesn’t just put it all on Jung Hoo. I love how she repeats her request, that he come back even if he can’t find it, and how she tells him he’s a good person. I love that she’s the one who pulls him in for a hug, coz this is her, reaching right back. Eee!
The scene is just full of raw, burgeoning emotion, and it’s just so beautifully played, especially in how Jung Hoo strokes her face before leaving …And then, comes right back for a deeply tender kiss.
Guh. Flail. Puddle. ❤️
Dad and Ahjusshi reacting in shock at everything is just icing on the cake.
Jung Hoo and Ahjumma
The relationship between Jung Hoo and Ahjumma is one of my favorite things in this show. I love how well they work together; he trusts her completely, and she’s always got his back.
More than anything, I love how well they know each other, and how deeply they care, even if it’s all gruff words and sarcastic barbs on the surface. Show demonstrates that intimate understanding in a myriad of small throwaway moments, which I love. [MINOR SPOILER] Like in episode 12, when Ahjumma starts talking to Jung Hoo about how reckless he’s being while waving a spatula around, and he immediately surmises, without even needing to be there, that she must be hungry coz she’s starting to nag. So cute! [END MINOR SPOILER]
Hands-down my favorite moment of this relationship, is when Jung Hoo and Ahjuma finally meet in person in episode 19. I love how he saves her, and I love how she gruffly apologizes about leaving his evidence behind. Better yet, I love how Jung Hoo doesn’t even seem to notice it, and just keeps looking at her, as if to check if she’s real.
He’s got this thrilled little boy vibe about him, and I feel like he’s loving the fact that he finally gets to meet his virtual mother who’s nagged him for years, and loved him and protected him, in her own gruff way. And it’s just like her to feel uncomfortable about him gazing at her in his amused, sorta adoring way. Hee.
It’s so perfect that his proposal to her isn’t based on money, but on fun. And I love that even though she always says that she only does stuff for money, that she buys in anyway.
These two. So awesome. ❤️
Jung Hoo and Teacher
Jung Hoo and Teacher don’t share a whole lot of screen time, but they go back such a long way, and their relationship runs so deep, that thinking about it still moves me.
Even though Teacher raised Jung Hoo with tough love that seemed unreasonably unsympathetic, Show demonstrates just how much these two mean to each other. I cried a river when Teacher willingly put his own life on the line to save Jung Hoo – and lost it. Jung Hoo’s violent, guttural grief at Teacher’s passing was completely heartbreaking as well.
I do love where we eventually leave these two, though. In episode 15, when Jung Hoo takes Teacher’s ashes home, it felt like a fitting and satisfying sort of closure. Since Jung Hoo hadn’t gotten to spend a lot of time with Teacher before, I find it oddly sweet that Teacher will now be spending a lot of time in Jung Hoo’s home.
I love the little detail, of Jung Hoo having Teacher’s ashes right in front of the screen when the broadcast of the exposé airs, and that Young Shin is there with him. It feels like Jung Hoo is finally at home, surrounded by the people who love him.
Young Shin and Dad
This father-daughter relationship warmed my heart, so much. I just love that they’re the kind of father-daughter pair that sits around making kimchi together, and dance together like no one’s watching, and talk & share so openly with each other.
There are lots of lovely father-daughter moments peppered throughout the show, which gives us a warm flavor for their close relationship.
[MINOR SPOILER ALERT]
One of my favorites is a little moment in episode 18, when Young Shin nicks one of Myung Hee’s cookies and takes it home to share with Dad. It’s so cute how they treat the cookie so preciously, and it’s really sweet how Dad savors the cookie as much as Young Shin does. He’s literally experiencing the moment with her, as she gets to know her mother just that little bit better.
Just, so much warm-fuzzy awesome. ❤️
Moon Ho and Myung Hee
I wanted to give this relationship a quick shout-out because there really is a sweet bond between Myung Hee and Moon Ho. They care about each other deeply, and it dates back to when Moon Ho was a little kid who needed to be told that it was ok to cry over spilt milk.
I do love that they have a bond that is separate from Myung Hee’s marriage with Moon Shik. I get the feeling that whether or not Myung Hee ever married Moon Shik, that she would’ve been Moon Ho’s noona, regardless, and there’s something very endearing about that.
Moon Ho and Jung Hoo
Oh, these two. They spend much of the series apart, but once they get properly into each others’ orbits, they seem to affect each other in fairly subtle yet important ways.
For a season, Jung Hoo bristles at Moon Ho’s efforts to be chummy and familiar with him; a dynamic that I found quite enjoyable. Moon Ho definitely rubs him the wrong way, for a variety of reasons, and I love that Jung Hoo either can’t hide it, or doesn’t bother to. To Moon Ho’s credit, Moon Ho does show Jung Hoo consistent gentleness, despite Jung Hoo’s brusqueness.
Over time, these two start to challenge each other with their different ways of thinking, which not only forces some relationship development, but also drives our story forward. I do really like that ultimately, they come together to work towards a common goal. That shared goal unites them in spite of their differences, which is a detail that I liked a lot.
Moon Ho and Moon Shik
The deeply dysfunctional relationship between this pair of brothers is something that I was curious about right off the bat. Everything’s cordial on the surface but beneath the surface, there is a lot of bad blood, and they are on opposite sides.
The unveiling of what was really going on between them, hidden in the myriad of riddles in which they spoke, was something that intrigued me all series long.
Right. I did say that I would mention a couple of Show’s weaknesses, didn’t I?
Just for the record, here are a couple of them:
1. The fragmented nature of the backstory reveal can get confusing, especially since, including our leads, there are 9 characters whose younger selves show up at various times during flashbacks. When you’re in the early episodes, it’s often easy to get some of them mixed up, and therefore not really figure out what’s really going on.
To make it even harder, flashbacks are interspersed throughout the episodes, revealing only bits and pieces of information to us. With each flashback, our fragmented understanding of the past continues to build, but it’s really easy to lose track of the little details. Which means that it’s very possible to end up quite confused, if you haven’t been paying close attention.
2. Very occasionally, a character or plot point might not be treated in a way that I felt was organic.
Like in episode 10, when Jung Hoo wants to spend some alone-time with Young Shin, the way he gets the other car off their tail, and then Young Shin out of the car, is so not Bong Soo-like that I’d be totally confused if I were Jong Soo or Young Shin. That’s one time that I felt Healer’s cover as Bong Soo didn’t work so well.
For an operation so high-level and longstanding as the Elder’s, I’m surprised that they would engineer President Hwang’s death (episode 10) in a way that was so neat that it’d arouse the suspicion of the detectives. That doesn’t feel in character with the cold, efficient, hard-to-beat organization that we’d come to know.
Yes, this is a very short list, heh.
THEMES & MOTIFS
Show’s actually pretty rich in terms of the themes and motifs that are woven into our story. Here’s a quick rundown of the main ones.
- The influence that our environment has on us, shown in both Young Shin and Jung Hoo.
- The cornered leopard who wouldn’t back down; being brave even when you’re scared. Facing your fears head-on and not running away.
- Motif of the animal kingdom.
- Motif of hands. It’s the most basic way that Jung Hoo and Young Shin connect. From the time they were children, to the present, when they don’t even know they have a shared past. She holds his arm for comfort. And on the roof, he holds her hand. Then when he rescues her, he takes off his gloves before kissing her. And the whole hand-gasm date.
- Of needing people. Others’ care, attention and understanding. Even a rooftop-leaping superhero needs people.
- Of family, whether biological family or gained family. Jung Hoo is like Ahjumma’s new son. Dad is both Young Shin’s father and mother. Teacher is like Jung Hoo’s dad.
- Coldness = isolation. That’s why Jung Hoo always feels cold, because he’s isolated.
- Healer’s cave, a metaphor for how he’s cut himself off from the world, and Young Shin picking her way in, is exactly how she finds her way to his heart.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING
All in all, I thought that Healer ended on a satisfying note. Yes, there were some things that I wished for, but by and large, the finale left me feeling content, with a big smile on my face, and that’s what’s important.
I love that it was Team Healer that took down the baddies, and I love – like, really love! – that we get to see them working together. Jung Hoo being a double agent was also satisfying to watch. The twist of Jung Hoo’s fake death was admittedly rather stressful to watch, but thankfully Show didn’t keep us in suspense for too long.
I freaking loved the twin looks of shock on Ahjusshi’s and Dad’s faces as they watched “timid Bong Soo” basically kick ass like a pro. The immediate respect on Ahjusshi’s face is priceless. The call-back to Jung Hoo coming back for a kiss is bonus, and really cute. It’s too bad we didn’t actually get to see any, since he decided against it, but more shocked looks from Ahjusshi and Dad would’ve been great. 😉
I really enjoyed the beat of Dae Yong (Tae Mi) kicking ass to save Moon Ho and the fabricated incriminating evidence. *fist pump* I love that small-framed Dae Yong basically drags the guy by his collar like he’s a hapless cat that’s been caught by the scruff of his neck.
One of the finale highlights, for me, is the look on Myung Hee’s face as she faces Young Shin, after Moon Ho presumably tells her that Young Shin is Ji An. Everything about Myung Hee in that moment, is so well-deliverd. Her expression is so full, that we pretty much just know, even though no one has said anything, that she knows. Do Ji Won is fantastic, seriously.
As a bonus, the small beat where Moon Ho crouches over Jung Hoo’s body and keeps calling his name, and Jung Hoo opens his eyes to look around, causing Moon Ho to cover Jung Hoo’s eyes while he desperately keeps on acting, is so funny! I nearly bust a gut, I was so tickled – and relieved.
While I would’ve liked to have seen Moon Ho actually talking to Min Jae and probably apologizing properly to her, I did like the unspoken reconciliation that we did get to see. In a way, it feels like these two go back such a long way, that they didn’t need words to make their peace with each other.
THINGS I WISH WE COULD’VE SEEN
1. Moon Ho actually telling Myung Hee about Young Shin being her daughter. That was something I’d been looking forward to all series long, so for that to have been done off-screen (if at all, since Young Shin’s voiceover implied that maybe Myung Hee didn’t know), made me feel a little cheated.
2. More of Myung Hee’s post-revelation interaction with Young Shin. I mean, it’s great to see Dad showing her Young Shin’s photos, and to see Mom being so grateful to him for how he’s loved and brought up Young Shin. But I wanted more mother-daughter screentime.
3. More of what happened to Team Healer and Ahjumma post-mission. Does Ahjumma join Some Day? I hope she did!
4. Moon Shik actually facing formal punishment from the long arm of the law. Yes, we see that his mental health is in question, with the scene of him drunkenly thinking that he’s Gil Han, but I would’ve liked justice to have been served in a formal way.
5. More of Moon Ho actually talking to Min Jae. Not just showing up with coffee and getting to put his arm around her.
Ultimately, the thing I loved most about the finale, is that in the end, we get to see that Jung Hoo and Young Shin are still on adventures together, and Jung Hoo’s using all his spy know-how, to partner Young Shin in unveiling the truth.
That they are both following in the steps of their parents in their pursuit of truth, no longer driven by the ghost of lost memories, but because it’s genuinely something that they believe in and a passion that makes their hearts race, is very, very cool. That Jung Hoo becomes a photographer just like his dad, is just icing on the cake.
Sure, there are still bad guys out there that didn’t get taken down this time, but we have the assurance that Jung Hoo and Young Shin will keep on relentlessly pursuing the truth, and that they will bring those bad guys to justice, one exposé at a time.
Plus, in my imagination, there’s totally the option of having Jung Hoo occasionally step out as superhero Healer. Simply coz Healer’s just too cool to be retired, y’know? ❤️
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Cracktastic. Fantastic. And so full of feels. ❤️
FINAL GRADE: A+
If you haven’t seen the show and aren’t afraid of minor spoilers, this is a fantastic extended trailer that will give you taste of not only the show’s brand of cool, but also a flavor for our main characters as well.
Can’t get enough of Healer? You might be interested to check out my Healer shirt!
Forget the Cape
Inspired by how effortlessly cool Ji Chang Wook looks in the drama poster, and to celebrate the superhero cool of Healer.
Click on the image below to shop this shirt! And, please help to spread the word to other Healer fans too! Thankies ❤️