THE SHORT VERDICT:
Show is tightly paced, pretty well-written, and manages solid cliffhangers and some good plot twists, through its run. Just be prepared for a fantastical set-up (robots, after all), with melo lashings in somewhat substantial measure. With the right lens, though, this show is highly enjoyable. I found myself looking forward to new episodes of this one, more than I did with most other shows on my drama plate at the time.
Seo Kang Joon is absolutely fantastic in this, demonstrating acting chops that I never knew he had. Show is worth the watch just to see him in action.
A ride more rollicking than I first expected or imagined.
Are You Human Too OST – Is It Love?
THE LONG VERDICT:
Never say never, y’know.
If you’d told me before this show, that I – the person who’d said that I hadn’t been too thrilled with the robot trend descending on dramaland – would end up getting good-and-proper sucked into this good-and-proper robot drama complete with good-and-proper robot romancin’, I wouldn’t have believed you.
And if you’d told me that I – the person who’d said that I hadn’t been super impressed with Seo Kang Joon’s acting in Cunning Single Lady and Beauty Inside – would be quite thoroughly blown away by his delivery in this show, I would’ve been skeptical too.
Well whaddya know. Now that I’ve finished this show, I can honestly say that both those statements are, in fact, emphatically true. I enjoyed this show a lot, and Seo Kang Joon in it. What a happy surprise, I say. ❤
ADJUSTING THE VIEWING LENS
When finding the most enjoyable viewing lens for this one, I feel like there are a couple of things to adjust for. Here are the things I personally adjusted for, and I really feel like this upped my enjoyment of my watch, and by quite a lot too.
Note: In this review I’ll be referring to robot Shin as Namshin, and human Shin as Shin. I tried using RoboShin and HumanShin instead, but that just didn’t sit right with me. So Namshin and Shin it is. 😉
1. It’s dramatic and fantastical
First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that this drama world is definitely fantastical. The set-up is futuristic and leans OTT, and there’s a melo backstory on top of it, to boot.
So, it’s pointless wondering if such technology could actually exist, and whether it makes any sense at all that [SPOILER] a mom, who also happens to be the Einstein of Artificial Intelligence, would create a robot version of her son to comfort herself, when her real son is taken from her. [END SPOILER]
With my lens adjusted to accommodate the absurd and incredible – as well as a good helping of melo angst – I found that I was pleasantly surprised by Show’s first episode. In fact, I liked it enough to want to watch the second episode, and soon. That doesn’t often happen for me with dramas these days, so I counted this a big plus.
2. Suspension of disbelief required
Given Show’s fantasy premise, it should come as no surprise that suspension of disbelief is required. Sometimes it was required in larger measure than at other times, but basically, I found it necessary to close one eye – and occasionally both eyes – at Show’s leaps in logic.
Here’s a sampling of some of ’em:
E4. Disaster Mode Namshin (Seo Kang Joon) wouldn’t just stand there in the middle of a burning building, he’d get So Bong (Gong Seung Yeon) out of there. And given that she’s been trapped and terrified, sincerely fearing for her life, she wouldn’t have time to feel flutters either, seriously.
E5. The whole thing with ambushing the ambulance, ambushing Namshin, and then passing him off as a human patient undergoing surgery is quite fantastical.
E5. I feel like maybe there’s an oversight this episode, when Namshin is discharged and recognizes the girls that he rescued, and is even able to repeat the line that he’d said to the girl, while rescuing her. I thought he wasn’t supposed to be able to remember what he does while in Disaster Mode? I rationalize that he was able to understand a lot of what went on by searching all the articles, and they probably interviewed the girls that he rescued. Yeah, let’s go with that.
E6. It doesn’t seem reasonable to me that they would give So Bong the bodyguard position just because she begged for it. Surely there isn’t only the option of yes or no. They could’ve given her a job as a guard rather than Shin’s personal bodyguard, if they didn’t trust her completely.
E18. How did the driverless car get itself down from its display upstairs to the basement carpark? That’s quite a stretch.
3. Lean in and embrace the weird
Those of you who follow me on Twitter would likely already know this, but I stumbled on this thread in the early days of my watch, and even though it contained some spoilers for the show, I was utterly delighted by it. Put in such absurd, funny perspective, I couldn’t help but find everything on my screen even more amusing and entertaining.
Long story short, I really think that if you just lean in and embrace the weird, you’d likely have a pretty good time with this one.
STUFF I LIKED
Pacing and general execution
The first thing that I noticed about this show, is how everything looks shiny and polished, even with the burden of having to showcase a whole lot of technology. All the CGI looks legit, and I liked how cohesive everything appeared; I never once felt pulled out of my watch because something looked cheap or not well done.
The writing also feels like one cohesive whole, which is something that I’ve come to prize a whole lot – mostly because many of the live-shoot dramas don’t manage to achieve this. I didn’t suffer any sort of narrative whiplash with this one; it felt like writer-nim knew the story she wanted to tell, and got to tell it. I do believe that the fact that Show is completely pre-produced is a big contributing factor.
I was also very pleasantly surprised by Show’s pacing. Stuff happened quickly as a general rule, and I don’t remember ever feeling like Show was cycling in place to buy time; a thing that many dramas tend to do. Instead, Show cracks on at a brisk pace, and often, stuff happened sooner than I expected. [SPOILER] For example, I was surprised at how quickly Namshin’s existence was discovered by So Bong. I’d thought that she would be kept in the dark for longer, but by episode 7 (basically after just over 3 hours of screen time), she was in the know. [END SPOILER] That definitely helped to keep me engaged; I just didn’t have time to get bored.
Another thing that I really liked, is Show’s handling of its episode cuts. Quite a few kdramas have switched over to the half-hour episode format, but one thing I’ve noticed is that most kdramas don’t actually craft cliffhangers for the end of the half-hour episodes. Not this show. Here, I often felt like there were proper cliffhangers crafted even for the middle of the hour (ie the odd-numbered episodes), which made it possible for me to actually enjoy watching the half-hour episodes separately, if I needed to, rather than feeling like I’d stopped in the middle of a scene. I liked that a lot.
Additionally, I gotta give props to writer-nim. Show pulls a few plot twists out of its sleeves, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. They weren’t obvious twists that you could see a mile away, neither were they the far-fetched kind of plot twist that doesn’t match with information served up prior. I personally found the plot twists in this show very well done, and I enjoyed the thrill of being surprised.
[PRETTY BIG SPOILERS]
Here are 3 of my favorite plot twists in this show:
E12. Grandpa (Park Young Kyu) only pretending to have dementia. I totally didn’t see that coming, but I must say, it absolutely fits the character.
E19. Grandpa not only being the sponsor who’s been funding all the AI that goes into Namshin, but is also secretly housing Namshin’s entire brain in his company’s premises. Woah.
E23. The twist that Shin’s been awake for some time now, and therefore in good enough shape to actually pull off the switcheroo at the end of episode 22. Well-played, Show. Well-played.
Are You Human Too OST – Heart
Seo Kang Joon as both human and robot
I am officially thoroughly impressed by Seo Kang Joon, you guys.
Like I said in the beginning of this review, I hadn’t thought all that much of his outings in Cunning Single Lady and Beauty Inside. And even though I found him solid in Cheese In The Trap, it wasn’t a performance that I’d wax lyrical over, y’know?
WELL. Let the record show that I think Seo Kang Joon is FANTASTIC in this. He’s just so very effective, portraying the two different Shins. In his gaze, micro-expressions, body language and general vibe, he makes it easy for me to distinguish between human and robot, from as early as episode 1.
Not only is he very good at portraying the two different characters, he’s impressively good at switching between Shin mode and Namshin mode in a manner so instantaneous that I found myself feeling impressed every single time. One moment he’s all broody-smirky as Shin, and literally the next moment, he’s completely wide-eyed innocent as Namshin. Plus, I found that I could easily tell when he was Shin and when he was Namshin too; it all felt effortless and unforced to me. That’s skillz.
On top of it all, I am very impressed with Seo Kang Joon for managing to inspire such a wide range of emotions in me. When he’s being Hateful Shin, I feel thoroughly repulsed by him. And then two seconds later, when he’s being Sweet Namshin, my heart surges with melty affection. Seriously, that’s really good, any way you slice it.
For a while, I wondered if the very different personalities of the two Shins made it easier for Seo Kang Joon to play the two characters so effectively. Well. Show put that thought to rest in episode 35, where, in a fantasy sequence, we see both Shins sitting across from each other at a table, and both are happy, clear-eyed and smiling. AND STILL. I could instantly tell which Shin was which, from the looks in their eyes, and the minor differences between their expressions. SO FREAKING GOOD, I say.
Namshin’s growth journey
Aside from Seo Kang Joon’s fantastic performance, Namshin’s growth journey was my absolute favorite thing in this show. I was much more interested in Namshin’s development and his various milestones of independence and personal agency, than in the swelling loveline between him and So Bong, though that was cute too (we’ll talk more about that later).
In terms of breaking down the whys of my affection for Namshin, I thought I’d first talk about the initial things that tickled my fancy, before diving into his various independence milestones, which were the things that really stole my heart.
If you’ve been reading my reviews for a bit, you might’ve noticed that I tend to have a soft spot for male leads who are smart and capable. Extra points if they have some kind of superhuman ability. So even though I’d have never picked a robot male lead as something that I would actually enjoy, I found that Namshin checked a lot of the right boxes for me.
1. He’s smart
From early on, I found that I liked that fact that Namshin is consistently quick on the uptake. Yes, it’s true that he has the advantage of being able to mind-google everything that he needs, but (a) I count that as part of his superhuman abilities and (b) he does a better job at being a chaebol heir than the actual human Shin.
2. He’s kinda like a superhero
Sometimes Namshin steps up to be the hero, and I gotta admit, Hero Namshin is pretty cool indeed.
In episodes 4 and 5, he literally walks into a burning building in order to save everyone, and walks out with So Bong in a princess-carry – until he shuts down from the damage he’s suffered. So cool. And then in episode 8, I love the way he leaps between cars and even gets dragged on the ground by the runaway car, all in service of saving the day.
I mean, I knew in my head that Namshin is a robot and therefore was programmed to act in a certain way in the event of an emergency, and I also knew that as a robot he doesn’t feel pain, but I cheered for Hero Namshin, and had stars in my eyes anyway.
3. He’s friendly and earnest
One of my favorite things about Namshin, is how friendly and earnest he is.
Even though he’s a robot and therefore one would assume that this is all just part of his programming, it’s also true that Namshin starts to show personality very early on in the show. Like in episode 7, when he’s already practiced with Young Hoon (Lee Joon Hyuk) how to wait for the car door to be opened for him, and forgets to do so. I’d have expected a robot to have this learned information flawlessly committed to memory, but Namshin just doesn’t quite behave the way one would expect a robot to.
He shows personality, and moods, like how he goes into the room in episode 6, for no other reason than to play with the IOI. Also, I do love how friendly and earnest Namshin is. I loved it when he makes friends with the robot cleaner, in the same episode. So cute.
Plus, consistently through the show, Namshin brightens up visibly when he thinks he’s done well. In that way, he’s kind of like a cute toddler. And who can resist a cute toddler, right?
4. There’s something poignant and plaintive about him
Perhaps the biggest emotional hook for me, is my reflex desire to root for the underdog, and here, Namshin is clearly the underdog, even though he’s also the robot with superhuman abilities.
There’s a moment in episode 10, when Namshin freezes in the middle of the crossing, just because So Bong told him not to move. That scene when he just stays there, not moving, in the middle of all the honking from backed up traffic, is quite melancholic. It feels like Namshin really is all alone, that no one understands him, and it feels like he’s been abandoned; I couldn’t help but feel for him.
Later, the help that he asks for, of So Bong, is so much more than avoiding detection by Director Seo (Yoo Oh Sung). It’s to help others not be scared by him. Aw. To see such earnest purity, even in the context of his alone-ness, really just got me right in the heart. I was a goner, to say the least. I was always going to be on Namshin’s side.
There are so many times that Namshin’s growth journey pleased me greatly, that I wasn’t sure how to break it down in this section. In the end, I decided to split it all into categories, if you will, of the kinds of moments that I found especially delightful.
1. He shows that he’s smarter than the humans
Every time Namshin demonstrated that he was smarter than the humans around him, I got a bit of a thrill. It’s that thing about wanting to root for the underdog, y’know?
The looks on the humans’ faces are almost always priceless, like the time in episode 8, when Young Hoon realizes that Namshin did the wiser thing in not listening to the instructions that Young Hoon had specifically given him about not leaving the house. I loved, too, the time in episode 13, when Namshin hatches a plan that effectively turns the tables on Director Seo. How cool is that?
I love that throughout our story, Namshin shows himself to be smarter and smarter – and later even makes decisions that are so shrewd that his genius mom (Kim Sung Ryung) can’t keep up with ’em. I love it.
2. He shows that he’s growing feelings
Even though Namshin is programmed not to have feelings, and even though he and the humans around him keep emphasizing that he doesn’t have feelings, we see that Namshin develops them anyway, over the course of the show.
For one thing, every time Namshin looks wistfully at Mom when she’s with Shin, it feels so poignant. As I got deeper in Show’s episodes, it became clear to me as the viewer, that Namshin was always created as a replacement, and was intended to be enjoyed as a replacement. He wasn’t created in and for himself, nor was he ever enjoyed for himself. That’s sad. And it’s even sadder that Namshin seems to understand that, and feels yearning around wanting Mom to like him for himself.
Of course, the other major outlet for us to observe Namshin’s growing feelings, is his loveline with So Bong. I’ll talk more about the loveline in a bit. But for now, let me just say that Namshin’s nuances of expression – the way he smiles, the way his gaze flickers – say so much about how he responds to So Bong. Whenever he would respond to So Bong like that, I couldn’t help but feel that he had feelings, never mind what Genius Mom was saying.
I think So Bong put it best when she explained it to Namshin; that he’s learning about his feelings, just like many people need to learn about their feelings too.
3. He shows discernment
One of the most impressive milestones that Namshin achieves, in my opinion, is the ability to discern.
In episode 24, Mom puts on a cruel show and tells Namshin to leave and never come back, or she’ll die. Instead of taking her words at face value, which is what one would expect of a robot, Namshin is able to tell that Mom is lying, despite all the harsh words and despite the cruel front she puts on. I found this remarkable. He’s essentially more discerning than the average human.
And then in episode 25, Namshin shows signs of being more thoughtful and considerate than the average human too, noticing that Mom’s got a headache and buying her meds without being asked. I found that very endearing indeed.
Every time Namshin demonstrated that he’s more discerning than the average human, I couldn’t help but feel proud of him for it.
4. He shows that he’s developing personal agency and a whole lotta savvy
Perhaps THE most important thing in Namshin’s journey, is how he develops personal agency. After all, this is the thing that liberates him from having to depend on his human minders for everything. Of course, he still needs their intervention when it he gets hurt and needs fixing, but really, that’s when humans need other humans too, so I don’t count his inability to fix himself against him.
When Namshin starts making new rules for himself – such as protecting So Bong, in episodes 15 & 16 – it means that he’s essentially changing his own programming, and breaking through what’s been designed into his operating system. That’s huge.
On top of developing personal agency, Namshin also gets impressively savvy in dealing with situations and with people, and I enjoyed watching him set things – and people – in place as he deemed fit.
Here’s a handful of times when I found myself very taken with Namshin and his brand of savvy:
E15-16. Namshin getting upset that So Bong is ill-treated, is already something. But Namshin being able to devise a way to make things right, without blurting out the truth, and while putting the self-righteous sales attendant in her place, is really impressive.
E17. I do love that Namshin’s showing more savvy in how to react against humans, without giving away his identity. The way he responded to the sleazy guy who wanted So Bong’s number is so believably human Shin.
E20. I do love how Namshin is handling himself. Mom might be upset that he’s not obeying her every word, but he handles himself really well. In meeting up with Seo Jong Gil, he’s completely unfazed, and he fields Seo’s questions perfectly; he’s confident, vague when it suits him, and utterly infuriating, from Seo’s point of view.
E28. Also, I’m impressed with how Namshin talks with David (Choi Duk Moon) about the whole Gramps knows thing. He is so firm, and even tells David that he doesn’t need a Dad who lies to his family. I mean. That’s so human!
In episode 31, I felt sorry for Namshin coz he seems scared after having been used to hurt people. But on the upside, he shows that he’s able to question his programming and his rules. And he even demonstrates that he would be willing to throw himself off a building – and destroy himself – in order to stop hurting people.
First of all, that’s basically putting his values into action, which is more than most humans are able to do. And second of all, AUGH. Oh Namshin.. oh my heart. How pure is he?
I just could not help but serve my heart up to this bot, on a platter. ❤
Are You Human Too OST – LOVE
The burgeoning human-robot romance
I think this loveline needs some rationalizing, coz it is, after all, a loveline between a human and a robot. I mean, I even saw several tweets about this show maybe being a very extended commercial for sexbots.
And while I can see why some people might say that, I don’t feel that way myself. I admit to having to take a moment or two at points, to figure it out in my head, but overall, I was most definitely on board with Show, on this loveline.
I like how writer-nim handled this arc, in terms of building the connection between Namshin and So Bong. From the initial revulsion, to acceptance, to friendship, and then eventually romance; I found this progression a very reasonable and acceptable one. In particular, I liked how Show built the friendship between Namshin and So Bong, before really exploring the idea of romance. That was definitely something that helped to take away the shades of sexbot, in my mind.
Another important factor for me, is the fact that Show takes pains to show us that Namshin does indeed have consciousness and personal agency, by Show’s later stretch. He’s not showing care for So Bong because he’s been instructed to; he decides to do that, all on his own.
Because of Namshin’s clearly shown personal agency, I found that it really wasn’t hard to root for this loveline. Coz she is able to care about him, and he is able to care about her too.
Yes, there were small occasions when my brain wondered what their future would look like. [SPOILER] And, when So Bong’s dad refers to Namshin as his future son-in-law in episode 34, I found myself doing a bit of a double take as well. [END SPOILER] In the end, though, I decided that since this is a fantasy story anyway, that I didn’t have to think too hard about these things. So I just buckled in and enjoyed the ride.
Here’s a handful of OTP moments that I enjoyed:
E10. The lie detector test, where So Bong gets called out for watching Namshin take off his clothes. Tee hee.
E10. Namshin’s way of rejecting Ye Na is priceless. Grabbing So Bong for a kiss. Muahaha. Yes, that sure escalated quickly.
E10. Namshin being so happy that So Bong has a steel rod in her leg and is therefore a cyborg and therefore a kind of robot – just like him. So cute.
E14. Namshin being so loyal towards So Bong that he won’t easily listen to someone else, unless she gives the go-ahead. Aw. And So Bong is growing more and more protective of him too.
E16. Namshin becoming cognizant of why he created a rule for So Bong – because she’s the only one who sees him for himself. He doesn’t even count Mom in that equation. Aww.
E17. Namshin experiencing errors in that he keeps seeing So Bong around him, after she’s left “for good.” So sad-cute.
E18. Namshin coming out in all his badass glory to save So Bong. Eee!
E19. The connection between Namshin and So Bong feels real and earned. I like it a lot. The way he rushes out to save her – taking off the manual mode no less – and the way she cries with relief to see him, and sinks into his embrace. That feels momentous. Plus, I very much enjoyed the friendly yet close tone of their interactions, as he’s caring for her in the hospital. The banter is easy and familiar, and the smiles, bright and unguarded. Likey.
E22. Namshin becoming more attuned to So Bong’s emotional needs, and giving her a hug because he can tell that she’s about to cry. And then So Bong at the end, declaring that she likes him. I do admire So Bong for owning her feelings for Namshin, and even telling him that it’s ok that he doesn’t feel anything, because she doesn’t expect anything in return for her feelings. That feels so pure and unconditional, and honest.
E24. Namshin completely focused on getting So Bong away from Shin. He’s feeling jealousy!! Eee! I do love jealous and protective Namshin. He doesn’t understand the emotions, but he’s definitely acting on the emotions that he doesn’t think he has. Hee.
STUFF I LIKED LESS
So Bong’s characterization
One of the reasons I don’t watch much k-variety (or much variety at all, really), is because if I see too much of an actor’s personality, it might mess with my ability to buy into a character that they might play on my screen.
Even though I haven’t seen much of Gong Seung Yeon in anything prior to this (I saw a little of her in Six Flying Dragons, which I never finished), I did watch a handful of episodes of We Got Married, while Gong Seung Yeon was paired with Lee Jong Hyun on the show. My impression of her then, was that she was super girly and perhaps even a little delicate.
Which means that right from the beginning of my watch, I had some difficulty coming to terms with her delivery of So Bong. To my eyes, Gong Seung Yeon’s efforts to play a character who’s immediately introduced as strong and rough, seemed a little try-hard. It all looked rather unnatural and forced, to me.
[VAGUE SPOILERS] This became a lot less of an issue as I got deeper into Show’s episodes, because So Bong softens a lot as a character and therefore is a lot less brusque and rough. I think some viewers found her transition from hardened cheat to sincere robot protector unnatural, but I found that I didn’t have the same struggle. Given the circumstances under which her career as a professional fighter ended, I could believe that she became jaded and cynical as a result, and that her interactions with Namshin eventually melted away the sting of the past, and brought her better nature back to the forefront.
What I did notice, though, is that by the second half of the show, So Bong shows a lot less physical strength, and is given a lot less to do. As the drama around the two Shins and the political war within PK Group heats up, So Bong gets relegated to not much more than being a pawn in the games. Her main contribution is in accepting and supporting Namshin, which is important, of course, but I couldn’t help but wonder at what happened to her ability to kick actual butt, as a retired professional fighter. That was pretty disappointing. [END SPOILERS]
Ye Na as a character
I kind of got the idea right away in Show’s set-up episodes, that Ye Na (Park Hwan Hee) would be the clingy second female lead type of character. Clearly, she was way more into Shin than he was into her. I found that quite sad, and for the most part, I thought of her as delusional but rather harmless.
[SPOILERS] That all changed once she found out about Namshin, though. She basically turns into the most awful brat and treats Namshin and So Bong like they are literal dirt. I actively disliked her from this point onwards. To be fair, Show does give Ye Na a late-game redemption, which helps. But I did spend most of my watch not enjoying Ye Na very much at all. [END SPOILER]
Are You Human Too OST – Who You Are
STUFF THAT’S NEUTRAL THAT I JUST WANTED TO TALK ABOUT A LITTLE BIT
Overall, Mom (Kim Sung Ryung) goes through an interesting trajectory, to say the least. From being the woman whose young son is snatched from her arms, she becomes the benevolent creator of her son’s robot likeness, and loves him as her other son. And then, partway through the show, she puts a kill switch in Namshin and seems determined to destroy him. She becomes irrational and unpleasant towards Namshin, while becoming weepy and desperate around Shin. And then, she dies while saving the robot son she’d been trying to destroy.
If you’ve seen the show, you’d know that I’m not making any of this up.
At first, I found it all very strange too. But on further thought, I realized that Mom deserved to be cut some slack. She’d had her son snatched from her, and had spent years trying to replace him with a robot, and when she’d been finally reunited with her son, he’d been unconscious and lying in a pool of blood. Then, they’d said he might never wake up. When he did eventually wake up, he was violently hostile towards her. Anyone in that position would go a little crazy, I’d think.
For the record, I was really upset that Mom would put a kill switch in Namshin in episode 10. My reaction was literally:
“OMG. MOMMM. Why did you put a kill switch inside Namshin?!??? Just because the real Shin wakes up, Namshin doesn’t have to dieee. They co-existed all this time, and you call him your other son, and you’re going to kill him?!?? What kind of mother ARE you?!?”
As I got further into the show though, I began to realize that Mom felt extremely guilty towards Shin for replacing him with a robot. In her desperation to make it up to Shin, she was prepared to destroy Namshin, if it would make Shin feel a little better. I didn’t approve of this, certainly, but I could understand where the woman was coming from.
Eventually, when she dies while protecting Namshin, I feel like she makes up for everything, in her own very tragic way.
Lee Joon Hyuk as Young Hoon
I’ve always thought that Lee Joon Hyuk excels at playing strait-laced types, so I felt like his role as Shin’s right-hand man was perfect for him. I also thought his role as Namshin’s stressed-out minder was even more perfect, ha.
[SPOILERS] Over the course of the show, I liked Young Hoon’s arc in that I was curious to know why he willingly put up with so much abuse as Shin’s secretary, and why he was so loyal to Shin, and Show does a solid job showing us how Young Hoon and Shin have been protecting each other in their own ways, over the years.
Young Hoon’s guilt towards Shin for allowing Namshin to take his place is very damaging, however, and I just wanted Young Hoon to do the right thing and prevent Shin from hurting people, and Namshin too. Therefore, I was very pleased with Young Hoon in episode 31, when he finally punches Shin in the face instead of quietly enabling Shin while Shin runs amok.
Most of all, I liked seeing that even stick-in-the-mud Young Hoon eventually melts in the face of Namshin’s earnest purity, and starts to defend Namshin too. That turnaround feels hard-won, since Young Hoon has such deep-seated loyalty towards Shin, and I cheered to know that Namshin had won over another supporter.
On another note, there’s a scene in episode 15 where Young Hoon, instead of pretending he never heard about what Chairman said (about him being like Seo Jong Gil because they were both orphans who received scholarships from PK Group), and dealing with his feelings by himself, he talks to Chairman without flinching, and assures him that he doesn’t need to worry. I found that steely and pretty badass; that was the moment when I started to admire Young Hoon, at least a little bit. [END SPOILERS]
Yoo Oh Sung as Seo Jong Gil
I just wanted to say, Yoo Oh Sung is very good at playing the villain. In this show, he is exactly the kind of villain you’d love to hate; he’s basically the baddie who would stab you while wearing an infuriatingly pleasant smile. Yes, Seo Jong Gil does come across as rather OTT at times, but I felt that this worked pretty well in the context of our hyper-dramatic world.
THEMES / IDEAS [MODERATE SPOILERS]
I feel like there are several interesting ideas being lobbed around in this show.
1. Shin is clearly a product of his experiences and environment. His terrible personality and his awful attitude is pretty much because he was snatched from his mother as a child, threatened and blackmailed, also as a child, to stay away from his mother or else, and then spent the rest of his life in bitterness and resentment. For almost the whole show, everyone is more taken with Namshin, but Namshin has an unfair advantage of being a robot and therefore being easily smarter and stronger in various areas. For a while, I wondered if Show was saying that broken people aren’t worth fixing.
2. Just as family doesn’t have to be dictated by blood, perhaps human-hood and relationships can cross those biological borders too. David genuinely thinks of Namshin as his son. Therefore, why can’t So Bong genuinely think of Namshin as her beloved?
3. Namshin manages to break through his programming and divorce himself from Shin’s control despite the technical impossibility of it all, since he’s not supposed to have free will, and yet, Young Hoon, who does have free will and has no computer programming to enslave him, remains, for the longest time, unable to break free from Shin’s control. That’s ironic. I do like the idea that if Namshin can break through his programming to be the kind of person / robot that he wants to be, we can, too.
4. Namshin being able to be himself, without having to pretend to be what he’s not. The idea of not hiding; of holding your head up and being who you are, without feeling the need to pretend or wear a mask.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILER ALERT]
Not gonna lie; I was a little sad to get to the end of this show. Even amid the late-show heavy-handed drama, I found myself having a pretty good time. To me, best of all was the fact that Show understood its main appeal, and remembered to keep on giving Namshin opportunities to keep on growing more and more independent and human-like, and time to demonstrate that he does have feelings, even if it’s against his operating system settings.
Overall, I found most of the character trajectories and turnarounds (if any) reasonably acceptable.
Shin’s turnaround is big, but I also felt like the events that contributed to his turnaround were big enough to warrant his eventual change in outlook and attitude. I felt rather sorry that Mom died, but it’s one of the key things that shakes Shin into halfway waking up out of his self-focused, angry and violent pity party. Thereafter, his own near-death experience, and Namshin’s unwavering sacrifice for his sake, are the final push to reset the levers in Shin’s heart.
Ye Na’s decision to turn her dad in isn’t quite a turnaround in my eyes; she’s always cared deeply for Shin, and I never doubted that she would go to great lengths to protect him. But this time her actions felt different, because in deciding to finally not turn a blind eye to her dad’s misdeeds, she’s finally making a courageous stand for what she believes is right. Ultimately she also gives up the one thing that she’s adamantly clung onto for the entire show: being able to be next to Shin. With this, Ye Na finally won my respect; she chose to do what was right, even though she knew that she would not be able to stay near the man that she saves with her decision.
The one turnaround I couldn’t get behind, is how Seo Jong Gil becomes so jovial in prison. Um. The guy’s been plotting for decades – literally, for most of his life – to get his hands on PK Group, and in this last hour, literally becomes a mustache-twirling villain (albeit without the mustache). And, one-year time-skip later, he’s cheerfully serving his prison sentence, saying that the time he spent with Namshin was the most thrilling in his life? And he doesn’t look like he’s lost his mind either. Sorry. I don’t buy that.
What I liked most of all, is that Namshin stays true to himself all the way to the end. He grieves Mom’s death so much that he cannot bear to allow another human to get hurt, if he can help it. And so, despite So Bong’s pleas to get the kill switch properly deactivated before he runs out of time, he chooses to do what he deems right, despite the risk to himself.
At the beach reunion, as Show was rolling into its final minutes, I found that all I could think about was, whether Show would explain Namshin’s resurrection. I mean, I’ve seen enough kdramas cop out with a happy ending reunion without any explanation whatsoever, for how one half of the OTP is undead, and I dreaded the thought that this show would do the same.
Happily, Show gives us an explanation that I can buy; Shin finally put his money and power to good use, and together with Young Hoon and David, worked to find Namshin and restore him, which took the duration of our one-year time skip. Hey now. That’s a resurrection explanation that I can buy.
In the end, I was happy that So Bong got her Namshin back. More than that, though, I was glad that Namshin gets the chance to keep on growing, developing and becoming – or perhaps more accurately, being – exactly the kind of robo-human that he wants to be.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A surprisingly engaging and enjoyable ride.
FINAL GRADE: B+