The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling

Flash Review: The Smile Has Left Your Eyes [Hundred Million Stars From The Sky]

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You guys, this is possibly the one show that I ended up watching quite literally by accident.

See, even though quite a few of you had suggested this show to me, I’d put it vaguely on my list for “later,” and my track record shows that “later” often stretches into a black hole void of “maybe never,” mostly because there are just too many newer shows vying for my attention and I can’t keep up with it all.

The thing is, when I saw this available on Viu, I thought I’d click on episode 1, “just to see.” Well, whaddya know. I got sucked in within mere minutes. This one struck me as immediately engaging the way a classic melo like Winter Sonata is immediately engaging, and by the 30-minute mark, I knew I’d be following this one through to the end. In a drama landscape where a good number of dramas take about 4 episodes to get going in earnest, that’s skillz.

The question is, did Show manage to keep it up all the way through to the end?

PERSONAL CONTEXT, AND THE OVERALL TRAJECTORY OF MY WATCH [SOME VAGUE SPOILERS]

I haven’t watched the Japanese drama that inspired this remake, so for the most part, I can’t compare this to the source material. But, I do know that the original ends on a tragic note, and I also know some bare but key details around the tragedy of the ending. I’ll talk more about that in the last section of this review, but suffice to say for now, that I think just knowing those basic things about the source material did color my ability to enjoy this show’s chosen ending, because I knew there was legitimately another choice that could have been made, narratively.

Overall, I’d say that I found this an enjoyable watch, despite sometimes not fully getting the logic that Show was serving up. At its best, I found Show atmospheric, absorbing and quite compelling. It’s unfortunate that the ending just didn’t work so well, for me.

SPRAWLING OPINIONS (BOTH PROS AND CONS)

Because Show often paints in shades of gray, and because sometimes some things are kind of uneven, and also because I sometimes found myself having mixed feelings about a plot point or character, I found it difficult to separate my observations into Like and Dislike sections.

Instead, let’s take a look at both the upsides and downsides of various facets of this show.

Show’s overall execution

The overall handling

Generally speaking, I liked how everything was thoughtfully and prettily filmed, and I really enjoyed the music that was selected to score this moodsy, atmospheric story world. I found the music lilting and immersive, and occasionally ethereal. Altogether, this appealed to me a great deal, and added to my enjoyment of my watch in a significant way.

[SPOILER] In episode 11, there’s a nice example of thoughtful directing which I really enjoyed.

In the beginning of the episode, as we hear Jin Gook tell Tak (Park Sung Woong and Jang Young Nam) about how little Jin Kang had finally warmed to him by holding his hand while she slept, the camera pans to Jin Kang’s hand in Moo Young’s (Jung So Min and Seo In Guk), as they snuggle postcoital. It’s a great way to weave the dissonant pieces together, and in such an organic fashion too. I couldn’t help but be impressed, even as I felt the discordant emotions surging against each other in my heart: the poignance at the contrast between little Jin Kang’s handhold and adult Jin Kang’s handhold; the bittersweetness of Jin Gook’s memory; the wonder at how Jin Kang and Moo Young truly feel like two pieces of a puzzle finally reunited; the foreboding of what that might mean.

Really nicely done, I thought. [END SPOILER]

The writing

I found that the main thing I felt while watching this show, was a sense of morbid fascination. Right away, Show serves up several different compelling factors that I felt added interest to my watch.

[SPOILER] First, Show gets us curious about Moo Young and whether he’s the murderer, or if he isn’t, then how he’s connected to the murderer, coz how many people could there be in one drama world, that has a photographic memory? Also, there’s the question of who the murderer really is, and what the motive is. And there’s also the hint of a shared backstory by Jin Kang and Moo Young, who both have burn scars. Plus, there’s also the thing about Jin Gook being unsettled by the sight of Moo Young, and the niggling feeling that he’s met Moo Young before. [END SPOILER]

All of these things piqued my interest, and made me want to watch more of this show.

I also rather enjoyed the kaleidoscopic effect of the writing. As I got deeper into Show’s episodes, bits and pieces of information feel like they’re shifting into place in a slow-motion kaleidoscopic sort of way. But, while things might look different today based on today’s developments, it’s also quite likely that things would look different another day, in another episode. This kept things intriguing and interesting, for me.

Having said that, I did find the characterization of our key characters on the patchy side (I’ll talk more about that later), and the treatment of some secondary characters, on the caricaturey side. For example, I found rich chaebol Jang Woo Sang (Do Sang Woo) quite the caricature, and did not find him much of a believable character.

The pacing

While Show did keep me reasonably engaged through most of its run, I did find the pacing a little patchy. Some narrative arcs are amped up to feel Quite Important, but end up being sort of pushed aside rather unceremoniously, in order to give screen time to the development of the OTP relationship.

[SPOILER] For example, given that Seung Ah (Seo Eun Soo) is presented as a close friend of Jin Kang’s, I would have expected her sudden and tragic death to have lingered more with Jin Kang. I expected to see more of Jin Kang mourning her, and talking about her. But instead, it feels like Seung Ah’s arc is quite hastily put to rest, in favor of exploring Jin Kang’s feelings towards Moo Young. This felt a little jerky, pacing-wise, and I thought Show could’ve done better on this. [END SPOILER]

Seo In Guk as Moo Young

Moo Young (Seo In Guk) possesses a distinct antihero sort of flavor, like he can’t be trusted, and Show does a good job of making him come across as repulsive and dangerous, yet extremely fascinating, at the same time.

Seo In Guk suits this role really well, I must say. I’ve always found his gaze a little off-kilter, and this character that he’s playing is so very much off-kilter that it’s perfect. Moo Young immediately comes across as sardonic, devil-may-care and a bit of a manipulative badass. He’s just the type of bad boy that you’d want your kid sister to stay away from, but from whom you can’t stay away either. He does whatever he wants, on his terms, and he knows how to wow the ladies.

[SPOILER] In episode 1, he put himself out there to break the vase, so that Seung Ah wouldn’t need to do the artist talk that they talked about, and then he saunters away with a sly glint in his eyes when security ushers him out. Later, he’s all wrist-grabby and smoldering with Seung Ah in the dark, and then gifts her the bracelet off his own wrist, since it’s her birthday. It’s this very brand of slightly wild intensity that makes Seung Ah fixate on him like a moth to a flame – and that makes me intrigued by Moo Young as well. [END SPOILER]

Seo In Guk looks particularly unnerving when he lets his eyes go dead. And he wears that look a lot as Moo Young. It’s the key thing that makes Moo Young so fascinating, I think, in the context of how he behaves and how he carries himself. The words leave his lips in a flippant offhanded manner, and he’s honest in an almost unsettling way. He just says whatever he wants to say, and seems confident regardless of the setting or person. And then every once in a while, his eyes go dead, as if nothing is real and nothing matters. It’s very intriguing.

Gotta give Seo In Guk credit; he really does give Moo Young a sociopathic quality. It’s in the unrepentant, almost provocative gaze that he tends to wear.

Plus, there’s the vibe that Show presents, that Moo Young really seems disconnected from his feelings, so much so that it often feels like he’s missing an emotion chip.

[SPOILER] For example, in episode 2, we see that the thing about Hee Joon (Hong Bin) being a college student was a lie after all, and that’s a lie that Seung Ah had confronted him about, too. He’s just so flippant about everything that he doesn’t even bat an eye when he’s caught in a lie, and even manages to turn it around so that Seung Ah’s all tearful and sorry to him about doubting his word. Woah.

And in episode 5, he seems so nonchalant about Yoo Ri trying to run Jin Kang over, and doesn’t seem at all ruffled when he finds out the truth, although Yoo Ri says that he’s angry. And then, he seems genuinely curious and uncertain about whether he likes Jin Kang, even though Yoo Ri is positive that he likes Jin Kang. The straightforward, almost flippant way he asks Jin Kang to date him, so that he can figure out whether he likes her, is so odd and.. unfeeling. [END SPOILER]

So to me, at the center of Show’s mysterious vibe is Moo Young, who just seems so glib and daring and offhanded about it all. Who is he, and what’s his deal? That was one of the Big Questions that kept me intrigued and interested to see more.

As our story progresses, we also see that the closer Moo Young’s bond with Jin Kang becomes, the softer and warmer he comes across.

To my eyes, this was done really quite well, in the sense that by the time we hit the later episodes, I actually found it a little jarring when Show gave us flashbacks of earlier episodes where Moo Young comes across as much more unhinged and dangerous.

[SPOILER] For example, in episode 11, it’s only during Jin Gook’s confrontation with Moo Young outside the police station that I remembered all over again, how chilling Moo Young can be. Up to this point, he’s been warm, fuzzy and cuddly with Jin Kang, so much so that I kind of forgot that he was anything different. But the skeptical, flippant look in his eyes, as he listens to Jin Gook’s protests about him dating Jin Kang, and the way that he informs Jin Gook, without the bat of an eye, that he will continue to date Jin Kang, and Jin Gook can go ahead and do whatever he wants, is quite chilling to behold. It also makes me wonder if it’s a good idea for anyone to date him at all. [END SPOILER]

The thing is, while I was quite happy to let Show evolve my impression of Moo Young to something a lot more sympathetic, on hindsight, I wonder whether this was too simplistic. As in, is it really that simple, that because Moo Young meets Jin Kang, she unlocks his inner warmth, and he leaves so much of his colder characteristics behind, that we as an audience can actually forget what his earlier nature is like? With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I’m now thinking that perhaps it would have felt more realistic, for Show to have shown us more of Moo Young’s struggle to be the good person that he promises Jin Kang he would be. Because, while I get that the whole idea is that Moo Young comes alive because of Jin Kang, I also want Jin Kang to feel less like magic fairy dust, if you know what I mean.

Jung So Min as Jin Kang

I have a soft spot for Jung So Min, and I really welcomed her as Jin Kang. With her easy demeanor and her fresh, open smile, she immediately felt like the heart of this story, to me.

I loved that she comes across as so human, and feels so real. I felt quite connected to her as a character, right off the bat, and I cared about her story and what happened to her, and that kept my heart engaged as well.

Jin Kang immediately struck me as passionate and dedicated, [SPOILER] what with her going so far as to get personally acquainted with every beer that Arts Brewery produces, in order to design for them well. I was duly impressed. [END SPOILER]

I also liked that Jin Kang appeared to have an inner steely core, [SPOILER] especially when it came to protecting Seung Ah from what she felt were suspicious actions by Moo Young. [END SPOILER]

At the same time, I had mixed feelings with how Jin Kang’s character developed later in our story.

[SPOILER] I can appreciate that Jin Kang is drawn to Moo Young in a very intense way, but when Moo Young breaks up with her in Show’s late stretch, I was a little dismayed that Jin Kang basically takes it so badly that she can’t eat or sleep, like she’s lost the motivation to live. Plus, Jin Kang says more than once in the course of the show, that she thinks that she literally would be unable to live without Moo Young. This is not a sentiment that I can get behind personally, because I believe that one can get through and heal from even the worst heartbreak, and also, this behavior felt like a disservice to the stronger, steelier Jin Kang that we’d met in Show’s early episodes. [END SPOILER]

Ultimately, I feel that Jin Kang becomes too heavily defined by her relationship with Moo Young, and while I didn’t let that bother me too much during my watch, on hindsight, I do wish that Show could have perhaps treated this differently.

Park Sung Woong as Jin Gook

I really enjoy Park Sung Woong in general, and I thought him perfectly cast as Jin Gook, who strikes me as an earnest teddy bear at heart, despite his bundle of contradictions.

Right away, I was impressed by how passionate Jin Gook is, about seeking out the truth. [SPOILER] Despite the fact that most of the violent crimes team either looking down on him or patronizing him, Jin Gook remains dogged about digging out the truth, episode after episode. And yet, the more we get to know him, the more obvious it is, that Jin Gook’s keeping secrets of his own. How ironic, that he would search so hard for truth as a detective, but so fiercely protect the truth in his own past. [END SPOILER]

I also really enjoyed Jin Gook’s devotion to being a good Oppa to Jin Kang. From driving her around, to making her food, Jin Gook’s such an earnest Oppa that my heart couldn’t help but go out to him. [SPOILER] It’s true that at times Jin Gook comes across as rather too devoted to protecting Jin Kang, to the point of stifling her. I saw that some viewers took this as a sign that perhaps Jin Gook nursed more than brotherly feelings for Jin Kang, but I personally don’t think so. My take is that this might have been Jin Gook’s way of doing penance for jumping the gun so many years ago, and killing Kang Soon Goo (Im Ji Kyu). My guess is that over time, in Jin Gook’s mind, this had all evolved into something where the harder he protected Jin Kang, the more he was atoning for his sins. [END SPOILER]

I think my biggest struggle to understand Jin Gook as a character, has to do with his treatment of Moo Young, in his efforts to protect Jin Kang.

[SPOILER] In episode 11, in what Show presents as a desperate bid to stop Moo Young from seeing Jin Kang, Jin Gook stabs him at a crosswalk (side note: Jin Gook stabbing Moo Young is something I saw coming when the scene was set up, coz what else do drama characters standing across from each other at a deserted crosswalk do but stab each other? Ha).

The thing is, it never really makes sense in terms of why Jin Gook needs to prevent Moo Young from dating Jin Kang; why, in his and Tak’s words, that if Moo Young is who they think he is, then Jin Kang must never date him.

In the first place, it surprises me that Jin Gook would take such extreme measures to stop Jin Kang from seeing Moo Young, even before verifying Moo Young’s identity. That strikes me as rather odd, especially given that Jin Gook is a detective, who knows better than the average civilian, that investigations and evidence are important to inform next steps.

Also, even after Jin Gook confirms Moo Young’s identity, it still doesn’t make sense to me, why he feels so strongly that Moo Young and Jin Kang should not be involved romantically. It would make sense to me if Moo Young is actually Jin Kang’s brother, but.. he isn’t.

It also struck me as odd, that Jin Gook wouldn’t have the same compassion for Moo Young, that he has for Jin Kang, since they both suffered similarly because of their parents. This never made sense to me right through to the end of our story.

However, I do think credit goes to Jin Gook for confessing to the crime that was never reported, and submitting his resignation. Even though Moo Young and the law don’t hold him accountable, he wants to hold himself accountable, and I had to respect him for that. [END SPOILER]

Moo Young and Jin Kang together

Because Moo Young is presented with such strong sociopathic tendencies, I didn’t feel right rooting for anyone to be with him, even though I found him quite fascinating. As such, my attitude towards the main romance in this story was quite different than is my usual. Normally, I’m quite happy to root for a story’s lead couple, but in this case, I often wondered if Jin Kang would be better off not getting involved with Moo Young.

At the same time, the OTP development in this story feels very different from most dramas I’ve seen, in that the two halves of this OTP seem drawn to each other, in spite of their own wills. [SPOILER] Moo Young wasn’t even aware that he liked Jin Kang until Yoo Ri pointed it out to him. And Jin Kang remains in strong denial of her own evolving feelings towards Moo Young, even though he confronts her about it. [END SPOILER]

I have to say, though, that, credit to both our leads, the chemistry between Moo Young and Jin Kang is pretty strong. Sometimes, the air even feels kind of crackly between them, [SPOILER] like in episode 6, when Moo Young gets right up in Jin Kang’s face and asks her if she has no feelings for him at all. [END SPOILER]

To this end, I thought Show did a nice job of making Jin Kang’s losing battle to stay away from Moo Young believable. Her mind, backed up with advice from everyone, tells her to run like the wind away from Moo Young. But she’s deeply drawn to him, and it’s clear that the emotion is overwhelming her, washing over her in such thick magnetic waves that she’s drowning in it all. In comparison, the willpower she is able to muster is feeble and weak and no match whatsoever.

Having said that, I had pretty mixed feelings towards the blossoming of the OTP relationship.

[SPOILER] On the one hand, it was nice to see Jin Kang and Moo Young share candid conversations, and Moo Young seeking to make Jin Kang happy by agreeing to learn to be a good person.

The giddy happiness that Jin Kang and Moo Young feel, as they begin to date in episode 10, is palpable through my screen. The stifled smiles, the covert texting, the first hand hold; it all feels so tantalizing.

Additionally, the entire way the consummation of the OTP relationship is treated in episode 10 is refreshingly frank. As they sit on the rock by the lake where he used to sit as a child, Moo Young tells her honestly, “I want to sleep with you.” Jin Kang looks up into his face, and after one thoughtful beat, answers, “Me too.” And the next time we see them, they’re playfully taking off each other’s clothes. There’s no urgency in the moment, only an unhurried, playful amusement, as they look into each other’s eyes and nuzzle. Dang. That’s refreshingly sexy.

On that note, I’m very impressed with how natural and organic Seo In Guk and Jung So Min make the OTP skinship and connection feel. The easy skin-to-skin contact, like when Jin Kang rests her face on Moo Young’s bare chest, feels exactly what I would expect of a real couple, and I couldn’t help but wonder how our lead actors managed to achieve this level of compelling connection. Very impressive, I thought.

At the same time, set against Jin Gook’s misgivings about Moo Young’s identity and his general distrust of Moo Young, there’s a pall of foreboding that falls over the newly-minted couple.

The way Moo Young reacts in episode 11, when Jin Kang gets upset during the housewarming dinner, when he says that he doesn’t really care about her brother, is so cold and indifferent, even though Jin Kang’s efforts to reason with him are warm and ardent. The kicker is how, when Jin Kang stands up to leave, he tells her to just go. I was glad to see Jin Kang walk out of the apartment, but I was also rather disturbed when it turns out that she never left, and walked out only to teach him a lesson, and the two dissolve into cuddles and kisses all over again. I mean, that is a red flag of significant proportions to be sweeping under the carpet of rose-tinted courtship fuzzies.

Also, it’s just quite troubling to me, that Jin Kang has to continue to lie to Jin Gook in order to bask in her relationship feels. There’s something so dissonant about that. With lies stacking up like that, wouldn’t it be really hard to bask? [END SPOILER]

Because of all these things, my engagement with this loveline was always more of morbid fascination than of actually rooting for this couple to have a happy ending.

Jin Gook’s bond with Jin Kang

I found the sibling relationship between Jin Gook and Jin Kang, which feels so real and lived-in, very endearing indeed. I could totally believe that they are siblings who’ve spent a lot of time together.

I love the easy and natural rapport between Jung So Min and Park Sung Woong, in that I find it easy to believe that these two are brother and sister, and have spent years bickering with each other, and being affectionate with each other. [SPOILER] In episode 1, the way Jin Kang pops a trifle into her brother’s mouth at the party is so casual and offhanded, like this is so everyday and natural for them, just says it all. Well, the way she doesn’t hesitate to ask him if she’s really ugly coz Moo Young said so, also contributes, heh. [END SPOILER]

I thought it was very sweet that Jin Gook is always so protective of Jin Kang, [SPOILER] especially after Show reveals that Jin Kang isn’t actually Jin Gook’s biological sister. That Jin Gook would dedicate his life to caring for Jin Kang like a little sister, is no small sacrifice, and that moved me.

At the same time, I felt sad for the strain that this heretofore warm and cheery relationship suffered, the more Jin Kang is drawn to Moo Young. In episode 10, I felt sad for Jin Gook, that Jin Kang would lie that she has to work, to get out of their annual temple tradition together, and all to spend the day with Moo Young. That she would lie so lightly, to get out spending time with her brother, was troubling to me. And sadly, upon Moo Young’s arrival, Jin Gook’s relationship with Jin Kang never is the same again. [END SPOILER]

Powerful emotional scenes

One of my personal highlights of watching this show, is the powerful emotional scenes that get played out in the course of our story. Yes, this story leans rather dark and heavy, but the payoff, is having emotional climaxes played out wonderfully by consummate actors.

My favorites are the ones between Jin Gook and Jin Kang, mainly because they are both equally fervent in expressing their emotions. Here are just two instances where I came away very much impressed, by Park Sung Woong’s and Jung So Min’s deliveries.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E11. The confrontation between Jin Gook and Jin Kang is the highlight this hour, for me. So much raw emotion, spilled out in quick succession via words that feel like they’ve literally been held captive and finally given sudden release, so much so that the physical bodies from which those words escape feel like they are on the verge of bursting their skins.

First, Jin Gook’s outburst, which feels so fervent and unwillingly honest, followed by Jin Kang’s retaliating outburst, which is even more stricken, stark and brutal. I felt like I was watching a vortex of emotions spiraling upwards beyond where I thought it could go. So very well done.

E12. Every time there’s a confrontation between Jin Gook and Jin Kang, it always feels so raw and real. This episode, when Jin Kang reacts to Jin Gook’s matter-of-fact confession that he stabbed Moo Young, her disbelief and horror are palpable through my screen.

[END SPOILER]

Jin Gook’s bond with Tak

While Show doesn’t ever properly give Jin Gook and Tak a loveline, it’s clear that there are feelings harbored on both sides, for the other.

[VAGUE SPOILERS] Because of Jin Gook’s emotional baggage, Tak seems to accept that their relationship will not be romantic. Yet, there continues to be a mutual care, understanding and loyalty between these two that endures in spite of it all. Tak’s decision to continue to be there for Jin Gook strikes me as especially pure, and for this reason, I wanted to give this pair a quick shout-out. [END SPOILER]

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

To be honest, this ending didn’t do much for me. Yes, the ending does kind of linger with me a little bit, but the feeling that lingers is actually of the meh variety. Not what Show was aiming for, I’m pretty sure.

With the full truth out, a lot of the earlier instances where I’d given Show the benefit of the doubt, thinking that there’d be a good explanation revealed in the future, turned out to be in vain. In particular, Jin Gook’s whole “they can never be together” ranting rings really hollow, when we find out that Moo Young and Jin Kang aren’t siblings, and Jin Gook totally knew that.

So what was his Big Reason, then? That Moo Young’s dad killed her parents? That’s not a super strong reason, given that Moo Young continues to love Jin Kang, knowing that Jin Gook, who’s her older brother for all intents and purposes, killed his dad. And if Moo Young can decide that, then it stands to reason that he and Jin Kang should be given a chance to make their own decisions around whether or not they could continue to love each other, knowing the bad history between their parents.

On a different note, I also want to say that this finale successfully unravels whatever feelings I had that Jin Kang really knows and understands Moo Young, better than everyone else, in earlier episodes. This episode, it’s Yoo Ri (Go Min Si) who seems to understand Moo Young’s capacity for murder – or worse – if he has the will to do so, while Jin Kang seems to be discovering a lot about Moo Young that she didn’t know prior. This had the unfortunate effect of significantly watering down my belief in their love. Which.. totally didn’t help matters.

Now, let’s take a step back and take a slightly more macro look at Show’s chosen ending.

As I mentioned earlier in this review, I’m not super familiar with how things panned out in the source material, except for the fact that Moo Young’s and Jin Kang’s equivalent characters did turn out to be siblings, and that they died tragic deaths. I kind of expected that the Korean remake wouldn’t actually go the incest route, because it’s too taboo and that’s just not how kdramas roll.

As a result, the finale really felt like an elaborate exercise of Show trying to be faithful to both the source material and the spirit of Hallyu, and crossing off as many checkboxes as possible, on both sides.

In theory, Show manages pretty well, in that, our key characters do die tragic deaths by the time the final credits roll, thus being faithful to at least that detail in the source material, and at the same time, Show manages to avoid having them be siblings, by creating a detailed story around why Moo Young and Jin Kang would have been in each other’s orbits as children, and why they would then plausibly be drawn to each other when they meet again as adults. This whole childhood backstory does also feel quintessentially Hallyu, since Strong Childhood Connections are such a mainstay in kdramas.

However, I just wasn’t feeling it, you guys. Quite possibly because Show was aiming to fulfill so many requirements, this ending felt more forced than organic to me, and watching this finale, I actually felt pretty disengaged, and also, vaguely disappointed. I kind of wish Show – well, writer-nim, really – had dared to pick a side and commit to it fully, rather than try to satisfy both sides to underwhelming degrees.

I think I would’ve preferred if Show had stuck to the incest storyline, because Genetic Sexual Attraction is A Thing, and I suspect the original writer had created this story, wanting to explore the topic of GSA. If GSA had been the explanation for why Moo Young and Jin Kang had felt so drawn to each other, I would’ve found it more easily believable. And, if GSA had been the explanation for why Moo Young and Jin Kang’s love was doomed from the start, I would have found that a more satisfying explanation too. Without the strong case that GSA would’ve made, though, what we do get feels like a much weaker case in comparison.

I mean, okay, being drawn to each other because of a Strong Childhood Connection is something that I can still buy, though it does cause me to roll my eyes somewhat at the tropey-ness of it, but, the reasons we get for their doomed love all feel kind of flat, y’know? Especially the reason that they had to die: coz Se Ran’s secretary shot them. It just doesn’t feel like a narratively satisfying explanation.

On the other hand, if Show had committed to serving up a softer, Hallyu version of the story, then I would’ve preferred if Show had dared to let Moo Young and Jin Kang live. Let Moo Young pay for his crime, and yet still end on a hopeful note, with the expectation of a new and brighter future.

This middle of the road choice just feels wishy-washy and uninspired. And that leaves me feeling uninspired as well, unfortunately.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Show is quite an engaging watch from the outset, but its poetry rings hollow at the end of it all.

FINAL GRADE: B

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Author: kfangurl

Proud to be a k-fangirl since 2007. Main diet of kdramas with movies and kpop on the side.

29 thoughts on “Flash Review: The Smile Has Left Your Eyes [Hundred Million Stars From The Sky]

  1. Very nice review. Sometimes reading your reviews is like reading poetry. You make drama critiquing an art form.

    I completely forgot they remade this drama. Being a fan of Kimura Takuya, I had seen the original, was kind of repulsed by the incest outcome. I just wasn’t expecting it then, so it flew at me like a curve ball. I honestly got little joy from that drama. (Though KimuTaku looked stunning and he had that “emotionally dead” look down pat many times.) At least you know in Kdrama you’ll get some feels and they throw in the ‘cute.’

    I wondered how they would handle the sensitive subject matter in this drama. I guess a strong childhood connection is the next best thing, but it also feels tropey at this point. For some reason with that premise I’m reminded of that sob fest “I Miss You.” Though that has a happy ending.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, thank you my dear – that might just be the highest compliment I’ve ever received, about the reviews! ❤ Poetry AND an art form?!? I don't know if I can live up to that! 😅

      Yes, with kdramas, they always manage to bring in some feels one way or another, lol. I actually thought this was much better than I Miss You. I couldn't keep watching I Miss You after the plot went to pot, and it was such a terrible sobfest too. So much painnnn. And all for its own sake, too, not because the narrative warranted it. I liked this a lot better than I Miss You. I mean, at least I finished watching this one! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, my eyes were as raw as Yoon Eun Hye’s watching that one. I think I’d dropped it, then went back to it later just to finish. It was so over melodramatic.

        And yup, that’s my honest assessment of your review writing. It’s clear, concise, elevated words that describe all aspects of the drama, not just squeeing over your bias or something. lol (There’s a time and place for that of course!)

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        • Thank you so much, my dear. Your encouragement means a lot. ❤ Thanks for enjoying the reviews, even when you often haven't even seen the show! HUGS. ❤❤❤

          Like

  2. Great review, as always.

    I did watch the jdrama, way back when. Thus I never had any interest in watching this remake. I was pretty sure they’d find a way to add a ‘tragic’ romance (Sora Kara is not a romance, tragic or other kind) but not keep the ending, without which Drama would not really deliver. The writer of the kdrama jumped through all kinds of hoops in order to avoid the incest part. But then they renegaded on a happier ending as well. Sigh. All the chatter around the internets did lead to a rewatch of Sora Kara though and a rather spoilery post on it. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for enjoying the review even though you didn’t watch the drama, Timescout. ❤ I do think you made the right choice, because the k-remake's more wishy washy narrative choices would've frustrated you for sure! Jumping through hoops is the perfect way to put it, and that's probably a large reason why I didn't find the ending compelling. I will check out your Sora Kara post – if only to educate myself a little bit, on the workings of the original! 🙂

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  3. I went on a binge of Kimura dramas a while back and ran across the original J-drama. I watched bits but spoilers and its dark vibe did me in. I was suspicious that the k-drama wouldn’t be able to handle the adaptation well, but the leads are two of my favorites so I decided to give it a go. I lost steam around episode 12 or so and waited until it finished its run and watched the last 30 minutes. I have no regrets.

    I feel that 16 episodes was just too long for this story. I also feel that the drama didn’t want to go all in on the Big Deal so they go a different way but still want the tragic vibe of the original story. “wishy washy” seems a very appropriate turn of phrase, and I’ll throw in unsatisfying.

    While watching this drama, I recalled a movie from back in the 90ies that dealt a tad bit with similar type subject matter (step siblings instead of full). I can still remember the conversation between the characters ( played by Chris Cooper & Elizabeth Pena) where they decide on how to deal with it. I had to look up the name of the movie because titles are my downfall; it’s Lone Star. Their relationship isn’t the main focus necessarily but just a part of the movie, but it has stuck with me since I watched it 20ish years ago. Now that’s how you do it.

    If it were me, I would have ended it with him dying but her alive and accepting both the good and bad in the relationship and some lessons learned. Because he wasn’t a peach even if not so disturbing as the j-drama version. Basically she went for the bad boy when she had a good guy who she seemed honestly interested in earlier in the drama.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I’ve heard that the original is very dark as well.. so I’ve no immediate plans to check it out, even though it’s widely agreed that it’s worth a look. I agree the k-remake could’ve done better, if they’d kept the story shorter, and had taken a stronger stand on where they wanted the ending to land. I do like your alterna-ending of him dying but her staying alive and learning to accept everything and move on. That would have been a suitable bittersweet ending as well, particularly if they’d gone the route of having them be siblings after all. Maybe this would’ve been better as a k-movie; the movies tend to be a lot more daring in pushing boundaries.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Kat, I remember Lone Star!! It was an interesting movie, we watched it in Film class, and when they found out they were siblings at the time I was shocked. It was kind of left unresolved, like they just accepted quietly it and it seemed they’d continue the relationship anyway. But it’s been 20 years since I’ve seen it I could be wrong.

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  4. Sora Kara was 11 episodes, but the gutless k-remake was 16. That’s 5 episodes worth of crap the remake added, missed points about GSA and a bunch of other logic-fail things.

    Kimura isn’t the actor he once was (even that is sometimes debatable), but Sora Kara is worth watching for him, his chemistry with Fukatsu Eri, and the overall storyline.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s true, the kdrama did feel a little bloated, most likely due to the inflated number of episodes. I haven’t seen the source material but I did feel that the k-remake was a little gutless in not picking a firm stand and sticking with it. I did find the rest of the watch quite absorbing, as long as I didn’t think too hard about things. Too bad the ending was quite underwhelming to me. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  5. After reading your thought provoking review Kfangurl, I thought “yes, GSA is a thing”. It’s been the subject of dynastic bloodlines going back as far as the ancient Egyptians, as well as the subject of many films and dramas (as it turns out, it would seem that the genetic data suggests Cleopatra, due to dynastic inbreeding, was not the glamorous and beautiful Egyptian queen depicted in Roman propaganda at the time and Elizabeth Taylor’s 1953 iconic film portrayal) and what I had to study way back when re how family taboos work in just about every culture across the planet (I became very good at working out what something like the brother’s sister’s father’s mother’s cousin’s aunty twice removed really means and how such a relationship is seen in different cultures).

    Then Lo and Behold, I found an academic paper on the portrayal of incest in South Korean Dramas 😱. It was very interesting reading re its hypothesis concerning the symbolism of the whole interrupted kinship thing and the anxiety that comes with this re the two Koreas due to disrupted biological lines that may lead to a relationship between family members that are unknown to each other. Having said all that, I just haven’t felt compelled to watch the J or K versions of Smile. As Kat mentions, Lone Star was a good film because of its perception re very difficult social issues. It was compared to Chinatown (similar themes) at the time, which is considered a 1970s masterpiece, but I have never thought so (I think I have slept through it probably three times). Shall I mention Game of Thrones? Great books (some of the best ever written), and a fabulous show until I dropped it during the final season. The GSA became rather moot too (especially the whole death thing).

    So, this week, I have finished a number of K-dramas (Confession, Inspector Jo) and started a couple that might actually prove worthwhile (Angel’s Last Mission, The Wind Blows). What I can’t believe though, is the fact I am currently watching no less than four C-dramas and one HK-drama and they are all quite good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, thanks for taking the time to read the review, Sean, even though you haven’t watch the show or its source material, nor plan to! But yes, GSA is a Thing. And oh my – I can’t even wrap my brain around what it means to be someone’s brother’s sister’s father’s mother’s cousin’s aunty twice removed! 😳😱 Also, trust you to actually find an academic paper on the portrayal of incest in kdramas! 😱 That’s so specific, and so uncannily relevant to this drama in particular! That point about accidental incestuous relationships among long-lost kin between the two Koreas is a very real possibility as well. A sobering thought, and a fascinating topic, at the same time.

      On a different note, what are the C-dramas that you’re enjoying? I’m always on the lookout for good ones, since I’m relatively noob about the C-drama scene. 😅

      Liked by 1 person

      • They are:

        Survivor to Healer. This is a romantic drama between a psychiatrist and a psychologist. It has many typical elements re getting back together after a painful past, but the difference being the attention to detail concerning helping many troubled patients, likeable secondary characters with decent story lines and a rekindling of a relationship that is given room to grow.

        If I Can Love You So. It has a tragic and fateful start, but interesting at the same time. The description does not do this show any justice. The leads are so terrific in this one. The relationship between the lead pair is dynamite in my view. Cecilia Liu serves it up wonderfully to Tong Dawei. I said to my wife recently – remind you of anybody? I managed to just survive that encounter 😂😂😂

        Princess Silver. An interesting quasi historical romantic drama so far with intrigue, a touch of amnesia, political marriage alliances and mystery, based on yet another very recent novel. There is quite a lot of scuttlebut out there as to how our heroine ends up with white hair along the way, because it is quite a racy subject in the novel, apparently. Anyway, it seems to have its nose in front re many similar shows.

        One c-drama that fell away story wise after the first 30 episodes, was A Journey To Meet Love. It was a great idea, and initially I found myself binge watching without thinking. That being said, the scenery as they travel through China and Tibet is breathtaking and worth watching just for that alone.

        The Princess Weiyoung is always worth a look of course. It makes you wonder what on earth Tiffany Tang is doing in some of her other dramas (In otherwords she is so good in this).

        And the K-drama of the moment: Angels Last Mission: Love. It is, quite simply, one for the romantics. I hope it continues the way it has unfolded. It’s a classic formula, but boy oh boy, have they got it right so far!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Wow, you make so many of the C-dramas sound so intriguing, Sean! 😀 I put Survivor to Healer on my list after you mentioned it to me the last time, but this time, you’ve really piqued my interest with your description. I might have to bump it up my list! 😉 I’m also intrigued by your description of If I Can Love You So, mostly because of your exchange with your wife! 😆

          Princess Silver doesn’t quite sound like my kind of drama, only mostly because I’ve been quite unsuccessful in my recent attempts with Chinese fantasy dramas. So I think I’ll wait to hear your final verdict on that one before I decide whether to give it a try! 😅 I’ve heard patchy reactions to Angel’s Last Mission, with some folks loving it, and others hating it. Which means there’s only one real way to find out.. so I’ll probably dip a toe in soonish, just to see where I land with it! 🙂

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          • I also like Survivor because it doesn’t let the characters off the hook. If I Can Love You So is very much a good, mature drama and the relationships are reflective of this. Yes, Princess Silver is the only one of a multitude in its genre that has caught my eye and/or I haven’t flicked within the first 30 mins or so. It will be interesting to see where I get to.

            What’s not to love about Angel? I haven’t stumbled across any negativity myself, yet. The same hands that delivered Healer are behind this show, and I think it’s just awesome. Shin Hye Sun is once again knocking it out of the park. Perhaps I’m biased though 🤩

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            • Sean – I agree with you that Shin Hye Sun is awesome in Angel. She really adds depth to Lee Yeon-Seo’s character. Kim Myung-Soo is just an adorable puppy and well cast as the angel.

              I am going to check out the first three C-Dramas you listed. Got them queued up and ready to go! Got a good laugh at the Princess Weiyoung comment!

              There are a few recently released K-Dramas that have potential. Perfume is so far clicking on all cylinders and I am hoping that its kooky goodness continues. I have my preferred version of the ending in my head and hoping the writers make a positive statement with this one. There is also Search: WWW with Jang Ki Yong who “killed it” in Kill It – my favorite drama of the year so far. Going to start that this week.

              Fangurl – When I saw you posted this review I immediately pulled up Sora Kara and binge watched it. I have to say that I liked the Japanese version of the story much better.

              I barely finished The Smile Has Left Your Eyes and the only reason I stayed was because I was bitten by the curiosity bug. Moo Young was a despicable, manipulative character and I never trusted him – never – ever – not for a second – not even when they attempted to soften him with back story. Seo In Guk did a fine job with this role to make me feel that strongly about the character.

              There were quite a lot of times I wanted to grab Jin Kang by the shoulders and yell “Wake up sister – there is no good in this path!”

              It was like watching a natural disaster in slo-mo.

              Liked by 1 person

              • I have been in two minds about Perfume, but I might just now take a look after you comments 😊 As for WWW: Search, I absolutely love it. I think it’s a very clever and thought provoking show with some very good acting all round. In fact the female leads are taking all before them.

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              • Hi there phl! Yes, I’ve heard that the J-version is much better, so I’m not surprised that you preferred it over this version. And I feel you – a morbid curiosity played a big part in getting me to the finish line with this one. I fully agree that Moo Young wasn’t trustworthy, and I just couldn’t find it in me to support the loveline between him and Jin Kang. So many red flags, seriously! 😝 But it was definitely an interesting watch for me, even if in a slightly removed sort of way.

                PS: I have to agree with your assessment that Shin Hye Sun is excellent in Angel. I’m enjoying my watch of that more than I’d first expected to, which is a very good thing. 🙂

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            • I must be in the wrong mood, coz I took a look at both Survivor and If I Can Love You So, and neither one appealed to me. But I only took a very brief toe dip into their respective first episodes, so it’s very possible that on another day, when I’m in another mood, I’ll actually take to these shows more. 😅

              As for Angel, I heard that folks felt L was too flaily in it, and his acting isn’t the best. I’m watching it myself now, and it did take a while to grow on me. My initial impression of L was the same, that he wasn’t that nuanced, and a bit too flaily for my taste. But, once I got used to that, Show grew on me quite nicely. Shin Hye Sun is fantastic, and I do find that I’m enjoying it much more than I originally thought I would. 🙂 I didn’t realize it came from the people who gave us Healer – I LOVE Healer!! 😍😍😍😍😍

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  6. Fangirl, so glad you watched this drama. I’m always up for me some Seo In Guk so I watched it several months ago. Thanks for the vivid reminders of the drama that I enjoyed very much. I could go on and on about this drama..weak points and all, but I will comment on the sterling acting from the cast and the chemistry between our OTP. It’s been said before..great actors will make a poor script come to life every time! This cast was so very good that even when the story line went somewhat south…the acting kept you engaged. And the OPT of Seo In Guk and Jung So Min was very good as well. Having said that I really can’t recall a Seo In Guk drama that he didn’t have magic with his costar. I sit and watch him with any of his costars and say to myself…this man loves women. Skinship just seems to come very natural for him. He’s just a huggy bear of a man. 😘

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    • Hi Georgia Peach! 😀 Yes, the acting in this show was excellent, and I thought Seo In Guk, Jung So Min and Park Sung Woong did a lot to carry the show, especially when the writing wobbled. I think I don’t love Seo In Guk as much as many other drama fans, but I do agree that he does deliver skinship well. Even though I wasn’t into High School King, I have to admit he delivered some very nice skinship there – this, when I didn’t even buy into the OTP. That’s definitely some skillz. 😉

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      • “High School King” was creepy. Seriously, if it isn’t official child abuse, it’s close enough. Ugh.

        But Seo In Guk totally delivers in this. I never rooted for them; I can see he really came to love the heroine, but a bad boy who is different with only one person in his life and an asshole to everyone else is still a bad boy. He didn’t have to be her actual brother for Oppa to object..I’d fight tooth and nail if my daughter (and she really was more of daughter than a sister to Oppa) were dating him. Those cold, dead eyes, the smirk, the attitude…fascinating, yes, but he should have come with warning label of “sociopath.”

        But sad and heartbreaking all the same.

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        • That’s a great point, Blenny. Moo Young was not good boyfriend material in any sense of the word, and it would be understandable for Jin Gook to object to their relationship in any context, because he’s just dangerous. But Show does present Jin Gook and Tak saying to each other, that if Moo Young is who they think he is, then all the more he and Jin Kang can’t be together. That’s the part that doesn’t sit well with me, because in the end, his actual identity really made no difference. 🤔 But yes, sad and heartbreaking in any case.

          PS: Yes, I did struggle with High School King. It just weirded me out. But lots of folks love it, so 🤷‍♀

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  7. Hi! Miss Kfangurl
    I’m probably very late to say this but, I looked at your Full list and did not see Hwayugi [A korean Odyssey] have you seen it and are you willing to make a review? THANK YOU

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  8. Hi, probably this is a bit unrelated but I just wanna tell you how I’ve been enjoying your every single drama review. They’re all beautifully-written in such details that put me in awe. Thank you for inspiring me to write reviews as well in my blog (you can visit my blog when you have time, I have only written 2 reviews tho). Keep up with the great work!

    Like

    • Hi sapphired17! Thanks for your sweet comment. ❤ I'm so glad you've been enjoying the reviews, and have been inspired to write reviews too! 🙂 I popped over to your blog for a peek, and it looks to me like you're doing a nice job of 'em too. 😀 All the best with your writing, and I hope to see you around here too! ❤

      Like

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