Review: The Uncanny Counter

THE SHORT VERDICT:

Gritty, bloody and full of action like many an OCN drama, yet character-driven and full of heart, like you might expect from jTBC, with a fantasy bent like you might expect of tvN, The Uncanny Counter is the superhero-flavored, heartfelt, X-Men-esque demon-hunting story that I didn’t know I needed in my life.

For the most part, Show does a great job of meshing all these different personality traits into an organic whole – except for a late-stage change in writers, which admittedly causes a bit of a wobble, but which Show does recover well from.

Our cast does an all-around great job of bringing this story to life, while making their characters and their relationships pop, and Show works out to be highly engaging, and sometimes, even rather cracky. Definitely recommend.

THE LONG VERDICT:

It’s funny; I don’t actually consider myself a huge fan of the superhero genre, ie, I don’t seek it out, and neither do I anticipate superhero shows with excited anticipation, though I do tend to enjoy them when they happen to be on my screen, BUT, the idea that this drama has superhero origin story lashing about it, completely thrills me.

When I heard about this story’s premise, I LOVED the idea, and more importantly, as I started my watch, I found that I was quick to love this show as a whole; characters, relationships, action, thrills and spills – everything.

What I loved the most, is that all the action is married with so much heart, and together, it all comes together as one cohesive whole. That cohesiveness thrilled me greatly.

Yes, I did feel that Show had transition problems when it came to the late-stage writer switch, but we can talk about that later.

OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

I have to confess that while watching this show, I didn’t actually notice the soundtrack all that much, except for the main theme, which is rock-edged and hard to miss. Not to say that the soundtrack wasn’t effective; now that I listen to the OST album, I realize that all the instrumental tracks did actually help to support and amplify the watch experience. They were just unobtrusive enough, that I barely noticed them. I guess you could say that the OST was therefore effective, while being unexpectedly understated? 😅

Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review:

Or, if you prefer, here’re just the key vocals tracks, which you can play on loop:

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

Here are some things to keep in mind, which I think will help to maximize your enjoyment of your watch.

1. There’s action, danger, death and blood, all of which I consider OCN staples, but there’s a great deal more in the way of relationship dynamics and heart, served up in a manner that I feel leans sophisticated, and which I associate with JTBC. Overall, I’d say that the heartwarming stuff outweighs the danger, death and blood. If you’re a little wary because this comes from OCN, I’d also say that this is not as gritty as most OCN fare (I think).

2. In some ways, the general flow of our story is somewhat unsurprising. [MINOR SPOILER] Like the way So Mun (Jo Byung Gyu) learns the ropes and gets the hand of his new powers, in episode 2, for example. [END SPOILER] But, just because it leans a touch predictable, doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable.

3. There’s something distinctly Korean about this superhero story. It’s very personal; there are a lot of deep-running emotions; there’re lots of angsty backstories – and it’s all interwoven with the super-strength demon-fighting stuff. I happen to really enjoy this combination, but it does occur to me that this might not work for everyone.

4. Show wobbles a bit with the writer transition in episode 13, but take heart, because this only lasts for an episode, and Show comes back strong, and then stays solid all the way through to the end.

5. There are a few inconsistencies in the way that our fantasy rules are presented, but by and large, Show manages to maintain a solid amount of intra-fantasy integrity. Not getting too caught up in the inconsistencies will help you enjoy your watch more.

GENERAL HANDLING AND EXECUTION

Upsides

Generally speaking, I thought Show was well-handled and served up quite a few elements that I personally enjoyed very much.

Because of our premise which leans superhero-esque, we get doses of surprise badassery – which, I’m realizing, is one of my favorite drama things – when our unassuming protagonist starts leaning into his new super strength, as well as nice spots of parkour (which, if you’ve read my Healer review, you’d know I also have a soft spot for), as our Counter crew does their demon-hunting thing. Both very good and promising things, to be sure.

Additionally, a good chunk of the the stunts and action feels well-choreographed and acrobatic, which I found impressive.

Also, most of the secondary narrative arcs don’t get dragged out for too long, and last but not least, I was pleasantly surprised by Show’s boldness in our last stretch, in taking what we’d understood to be our narrative limits, and breaking them.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E14. I was not expecting Mayor Shin (Choi Kwang Il) to trap our Counter crew in a situation where their only available weapon, the barrier, is nullified. We’d been told that this is the Counters’ only hope of defeating a Level 4 spirit. But Show breaks the barrier and leaves So Mun to face Level 4 Mayor Shin all by himself, when we’ve already seen how badly So Mun got hurt, the last time he’d faced off with this same spirit – when the spirit had been a Level 3.

This sets up a situation that left me on the edge of my seat, because it all felt so impossible. This made me extremely eager and curious to see how everything would play out. I thought this was very nicely done.

[END SPOILER]

Not so upsides

Sometimes stuff’s too dark – literally. I mean, look at this screenshot above. You can barely see who’s who, and what they’re doing. Show isn’t like this all the time, but this was enough of an issue, that it niggled at me from time to time, throughout my watch. To be fair, I could still see our characters and follow our story, but I would’ve liked the lighting to have been tweaked to give us a bit more visibility.

On another slight downside, I thought the wire work involving leaps that propel our characters upwards (instead of downwards, with parkour) looked less seamless and polished. I mean, I could almost imagine where the wires were, coz our leaping characters did not look in control of the jumps.

Overall, though, these are relatively small downsides in a show where the handling and execution was generally done well, I thought.

STUFF I LIKED

CHARACTERS

Jo Byung Gyu as So Mun

In the way that our drama is built, there is quite a bit of emphasis on So Mun’s story, which, to me, makes him our protagonist, even though there’s a strong ensemble flavor to our drama world.

I love that fact that So Mun is an underdog with a hero’s heart, and he lives it so strongly, that it only took mere minutes of looking into So Mun’s life, for him to steal my heart in a big way. I loved witnessing So Mun’s journey of discovering his strengths and coming into his own, and I never grew tired of rooting for him.

Jo Byung Gyu is pretty darn excellent as So Mun, and I feel that this role really gave him a lot of room to shine. From So Mun’s more poignant moments brimming with pathos, to his goofier moments with his friends, to his heroic moments exploding with intensity and fire, there is so much range required of Jo Byung Gyu, and he delivers a solid performance through it all.

I’m very pleased that he will get to reprise this role in Season 2, and I’m curious to see how he will expand on So Mun as a character, to round him out and add more depth to his interpretation of our unassuming hero.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. So Mun is so sweet and patient with his grandmother (Lee Joo Sil) even when her Alzheimer’s makes her difficult to care for, and he’s also so caring, when it comes to his friends.

The way he wouldn’t look the other way, when his friend Ung Min (Kim Eun Soo) was getting picked on, even though he’s disadvantaged himself, and wouldn’t have a way to truly protect Ung Min, really endeared him to me. He will stand up for people and do whatever he can to protect them, without calculating his position or the danger to himself. To him, it’s a matter of principle, not of odds. I love that about him.

In my eyes, he deserves the super powers that the Counters are offering him. I feel like his heart’s in the right place.

E1. It also really tugs at my heartstrings, to hear So Mun’s reason for declining the opportunity to be a Counter. His empathy for his grandparents is so great that they’re all he thinks about, when it comes to weighing the opportunity. The minute he realizes that there’s a chance he might die while doing the work, he decides against it – not for his own sake, but for his grandparents. He just can’t let them risk losing him the way they lost his parents. Augh. So much pathos.

E2. The tears in So Mun’s eyes, as he processes the fact that his leg is fixed, are so viscerally affecting. And the fact that he’s been limping for so long really hits me, when he struggles to walk normally, even after his leg is fixed. In this moment, I appreciate Mae Ok’s (Yum Hye Ran) motherly concern, but I appreciate even more, Mo Tak’s (Yu Jun Sang) quiet confidence in giving So Mun time and space to figure it out on his own. Somehow, Mo Tak knows that So Mun can manage on his own, and that it’s important for So Mun to feel and experience the new strength in his leg.

The way So Mun starts racing around, with wonder in his face and tears in his eyes, is just the best thing. 😭 I am so happy for him. This really is the best gift that they could give him.

E2. It feels so in character for our underdog with the hero’s heart, to change his mind about whether to become a Counter, after he’s tasted what it’s like to save someone. I feel like that’s the core of the matter, for him. Sure, getting the use of his leg back is nice, and so is the super strength, but I feel it’s the thrill of saving someone’s life, that really gets him.

E2. I love seeing So Mun experimenting with his new strength and agility, but it niggles at me that he doesn’t seem to be doing a very thorough job of keeping his powers a secret. Yes, sometimes it’s to protect himself and Ung Min, but at other times, it feels a little careless, like the way he kicks the ball super high when Ung Min asks him to pass the ball, and the way he disappears so quickly from the field where the rest of his class is playing, when the crew tells him to come out to the front gate. These kinds of things aren’t going to help him keep his powers secret, and I’m a little nervous for what this might mean, in terms of consequences.

E2. I couldn’t help feeling a sense of vicarious satisfaction, when So Mun defends himself against the trio of bullies, but this is definitely going to become complicated, because now the bullies are out for revenge. I have no doubt So Mun can protect himself and his friends against them now – the training highlights, complete with cool one-armed pull-ups have convinced me of that – and I’m sure I’ll be lapping it up eagerly when he does kick their collective butt. I just hope this doesn’t get him into trouble when it comes to keeping his powers secret.

E3. First of all, I love that So Mun’s turning out to be so powerful, as a Counter. He’s gaining strength and powers beyond what the more experienced Counters expect of him, and faster than what they think, too. For someone who used to be so weak and physically compromised, this feels like restoration to an exponential degree. I love it.

E3. So Mun still has a lot to learn about controlling his powers and his emotions, but I still felt a big surge of pride, to see him emerge as quite the MVP, on his first mission. I got quite the thrill, seeing him leap to the top of the tallest pagoda with a single bound, which is even higher than what we’d seen before, with the handprint exercise. Also, that small snippet that we see, of So Mun playing with the territory lights, makes me feel like he’s going to develop even more powers than what we see now, and I am looking forward to that. It made me feel so much vicarious satisfaction, to see the rest of the team pat So Mun on the back and tell him he’s done a good job.

E3. I really enjoy seeing So Mun revel in his newfound strength and agility, because there’s such a joy and exuberance pouring out of him, as he runs and parkours his way to school. It does still niggle at me a little that he’s not being more careful with keeping his secret, but I’m admittedly enjoying his unadulterated joy too much to nitpick too much. I also figure that he’s going to learn how to control this better, quite soon.

E3. So Mun beating down bullies is honestly very satisfying to watch, and my favorite thing, really, is how polite he continues to be, through it all. He doesn’t curse or swear like the bullies do. He tells the minions politely, in jondaemal, to stop threatening kids at school, and it amuses me and thrills me in equal measure, how they quiver and quake in the face of his polite requests.

Of course, the bullies don’t take it lying down, and I hate that they target Ju Yeon (Lee Ji Won) and Ung Min, because they know that they’re helpless without So Mun. Ugh. It’s so hard to see them all beat up and bloody. I fully expect that taking down the bullies is going to get So Mun into trouble, but I kinda want to throw caution to the wind and just root for him to save his friends and teach the thugs a serious lesson. Clearly, Show has me by the heart. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

E4. It says a lot about So Mun, that he would choose to take responsibility for the damage he’d done to the bullies, even though Mae Ok’s all ready to heal everyone and wipe their memories. He refuses to take the easy way out, even though the rest of the Counter crew urge him to do so. He’d rather face the consequences, in a bid to put a stop to everything. This, when he doesn’t even know how he’s going to accomplish it. That takes courage, and principles, and So Mun seems to have both in abundance.

E5. I love the idea that So Mun, our little freshie Counter who’s still wet behind the ears, might be our crew’s most powerful Counter, to date. First, there’s the fact that he’s jumped higher than anyone in their midst, which we saw during the palm-print part of the induction. And now, there’s this thing where he can play with the territory rays, which none of them has been able to do before. So Mun’s been such an underdog, almost his whole life, that it just makes my heart sing, to imagine that he might actually be the most powerful Counter ever, and just not know it yet. I’m excited to see him discover more of his powers, even though he doesn’t succeed in summoning the territory this episode.

E6. The way So Mun experiences such a wide range of emotion when he sees his parents, is so heartrending. There’s wonder and joy at seeing them again, and there’s also horror and denial, when the collision happens, and then there’s a deep grief and sorrow, when they’re killed. And then, after a long pause, there’s a guttural fury that overtakes him, which is how he ends up attacking the evil spirit in the vision. Really well-delivered, by Jo Byung Gyu.

E8. So Mun is quite the badass coming into his own, with his super strength and his courage. We end the episode with Cheong Sin (Lee Hong Nae) seeking So Mun out, and the two coming face to face, ready for a showdown. I’m excited to see So Mun take him down, but I’m also nervous, because Cheong Sin has shown himself to be so powerful that even the crew working as a team, has been unable to overpower him.

E8. So Mun literally melts my heart every time he interacts with his grandma. The way he tells her that they’ll call his mom her daughter that day, because Mom had lived as her daughter for longer than she’d lived as his mom, is so tender and sweet. He’s so darling.

E10. It was really hard to see So Mun get stripped of his Counter status, and it was just as hard to see how much it affected the rest of the Counter team. The bonds that he’s forged with them are real and deep, and there’s genuine love there.

However, I can’t argue with Wigen’s (Moon Sook) analysis of why So Mun isn’t suited to be a Counter. It’s true that he’s been very emotional about things, and has been led by feelings of vengeance more than once. In this sense, I’m glad that Show doesn’t come up with some manufactured excuse to take So Mun out of the Counter team. This reason feels genuine, and it’s something that we’ve witnessed for some time, and which has been bothering me, during my watch.

E10. In terms of So Mun being able to pin Shin Hyeok U to the wall, I’m guessing that even without his super strength, all the physical training and sparring that he’s done as a Counter, would give him enough strength and skills to do that. Which means that during the other times that the bullies had terrorized him this episode, he’d been just taking it. There’s something so plaintive about that. Poor puppy. 😭

E12. I find it poignant that Mo Tak and So Mun bond over the loss of Detective Kim (Choi Yoon Young), because both of them have survived the loss of their nearest and dearest. It’s sweet of So Mun to hang around Mo Tak, to make sure that he’s ok and won’t do anything rash. It’s also sweet that So Mun brings Mo Tak soju to comfort him, even though it’s clear that this is So Mun’s first time actually cracking open a bottle of soju. His hesitant awkward elbow-bump on the bottom of the bottle is so adorkably endearing.

I also find So Mun’s conclusion very bittersweet, that working as a Counter somehow makes the gap between life and death feel smaller. It’s such an incongruous thing, for a young boy like So Mun, to be comforting someone who’s older than his father, and that’s a large part of why I find this scene so poignant. So Mun’s known pain and loss in such a deep way, even at such a young age. 💔

[END SPOILER]

Yum Hye Ran as Mae Ok

I first noticed Yum Hye Ran in a significant way in 2019’s When The Camellia Blooms, where I thought she was awesomely badass, and then I really enjoyed her in 2020’s Mystic Pop-up Bar as well, where I thought she was great at being funny AND fierce, so I was really pleased to see that she was part of our Counter crew.

I love that our Counters aren’t limited to the young and fresh-faced, and I held my breath while she raced around and did her thing, alongside the rest of the crew. I have never seen Yum Hye Ran be so active onscreen, and I think it’s great.

I love our entire crew, but aside from So Mun, Mae Ok is my favorite. I love how nurturing and motherly she is, instinctively caring for the rest of the crew as if she’s a mother hen, and they, her chicklets. It’s such wonderfully heartwarming stuff.

I also thought the exploration of her personal backstory was poignant and worthwhile, and once I understood the pain that she’d experienced in her life, her nurturing, mothering ways felt even more moving, to my eyes.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E5. One of my favorite things about the dynamics within the Counter crew, is how motherly Mae Ok is, towards So Mun. It’s like she can’t help herself, when it comes to mothering him, and I love it. She’s so protective of him, and I love the way she calls him her child, which my subs translate adorably as “pumpkin.” Tee hee. SHO CUTE. 😍

E6. Mae Ok’s so motherly, the way she blusters about how they shouldn’t meddle in human affairs, but can’t help getting all riled up the minute she actually learns any details of Mo Tak’s investigation.

E8. We get confirmation this episode, that Su Ho (Lee Chan Hyeong) is Mae Ok’s son! So.. he’s her Spirit partner, while she’s a Counter. I mean, it’s heartbreaking that she lost her son, but it’s kind of a cool silver lining, that she gets to work with him?

E8. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the fact that Mae Ok, the sweet mother hen that she is, thinks immediately of how she’s been making noodles with tainted water, the moment she realizes that the contaminated water in the wasteland is being pumped into the city’s water supply. She’s adorable. And, how sweet of her, to remember So Mun’s parents’ memorial day, and give him meat to make soup for them. Aw. ❤️

E9. It’s so, SO hard to watch, as Mae Ok does her best to heal So Mun, and ends up hurting herself in the process. I’m bothered by the lingering nosebleeds in particular, because it feels like the damage she’s suffered from the healing process is deeper than we can see.

Big, BIG sigh of relief, that So Mun’s ok, but, I have such big achey feels in my heart, that Mae Ok’s hair has turned gray, because she’s given up part of her lifespan, to save So Mun. Sob. 💔It’s so selfless of Mae Ok, to say without hesitation, that it was worth it, to save So Mun. The way she hugs him and tells him not to get hurt, or she’ll die of heartbreak before she dies from saving him, just gives me all these heartachey feels. She’s truly a mother to him, and he, a son to her. SOB. I love these two together, so much, and I don’t want either of them to get hurt. I just want them to stay as surrogate mother and son to each other, forever.

E10. The way Mae Ok goes to Yung to see Su Ho, and talks to him about their own experience being separated by death, is so poignant. She has so much empathy and compassion for So Mun, it really feels like she’s been cut off from her own son.

E11. I felt especially for Mae Ok, who almost loses her life while fighting the evil spirits. And yet, even in her moment of danger, being trapped with two evil spirits on her own, she tells Mo Tak and Ha Na to go to So Mun, because he needs them more. Augh. Mae Ok deserves to win some kind of mother hen of the year award. I love her, and I’m so glad she survived.

E11. Not gonna lie; the backstory of how Mae Ok lost her son and then became a Counter, legit brought tears to my eyes. Her pain and horror at losing her son is so deep, and her sorrow when she sees him again, as she apologizes for surviving without him, is so raw. Augh. Mae Ok’s heart is so pure, and she so often makes me want to cry. I’m just so relieved that this mother-son pair still get to see each other as they work together as Counter and Spirit partners, and I just want them to have that gift for as long as possible. Is forever too much to ask?

E14. My favorite mini arc this hour, is of Mae Ok and her ex-daughter-in-law (Lee Yoon Sun) bonding over Su Ho’s death anniversary, as Mae Ok gives her ex-daughter-in-law her blessings on her upcoming wedding, and wishes her a happy life. It’s all very poignant, because there is still a lot of sadness and longing in both women, over Su Ho’s death, but there’s also a sense of pensive acceptance, that the living need to go on living, after all.

The glimpse that we get, of Su Ho, processing it in his own way in Yung, also wistful, tearful and accepting, makes it all extra heartachey, because while most people focus on the sadness of the living, this approach paints a picture where both the the mourners and the mourned are equally wistful and unwilling to part. 💔

[END SPOILER]

Yu Jun Sang as Mo Tak

This is my first proper introduction to Yu Jun Sang, and I have to say, I really enjoyed him as Mo Tak. The wild hair, the mad knife skills, the lean, wiry, lithe frame, and the slightly savage gaze, come together to make Mo Tak a pretty intriguing character indeed. And Yoo Joon Jang’s delivery is faceted enough, to make me appreciate Mo Tak’s various layers.

My favorite thing about Mo Tak is his big marshmallow heart that’s full of compassion, underneath the very gruff surface. Additionally, there’s a long-suffering, quiet sort of strength about him, beyond the outspoken, rough surface.

I found Mo Tak’s backstory really quite painful, and the way Mo Tak essentially rises from the ashes to fight another day, at each stage of his story, with so little fanfare, is both impressive and affecting at the same time.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2. Mo Tak may appear gruff, but he does take care of So Mun. I couldn’t help but feel a little gratified that Mo Tak insisted on hitting the bullies just once each, for what they did to So Mun. Even better, that each hit resulted in broken bones. Gosh, I sound so bloodthirsty, heh.

E3. Tee hee. I loved that little scene, of Mo Tak sitting up in his hospital bed, and his newly curly hair springing out in wiry tufts through his bandage. Cute!

E5. Mo Tak’s muscle memory around his police work is really quite poignant, especially in light of the fact that he can’t remember the woman who’s supposed to have been his longtime girlfriend.

E5. I’m pretty stunned at the flashback, because I’d always assumed that Mo Tak had been pushed off the building. I’m horrified to realize that he’d thrown himself off the building, because it was the only way to take his life back into his own hands. Gah, that’s awful. I’m glad he’s survived, and has now come face to face with the person who’d stabbed him.

E8. Although I have mixed feelings about our crew going rogue, I have to admit that Mo Tak is admittedly quite the badass, walking into Noh Hang Gyu’s (Kim Seung Hoon) office all calm and languid, while dealing incapacitating sharp blows to anyone who dares to get in his way. I love that dissonance, between the unhurried serenity, and the sharp ninja moves. So cool! 🤩

E11. It’s a good development that Mo Tak regains his memories with Ha Na’s help, after getting hit on the head with that giant slab of concrete, and but honestly, the sense of foreboding I felt, as he got ready for his date with Detective Kim, like a giddy schoolboy, was very great. I think dramas have trained me well; any time I see a character who’s suffered a lot suddenly get all happy and excited, I know that something bad’s about to happen.

..And something bad does happen. Poor Mo Tak. To think that he loses Detective Kim right as they’re about to reunite after he regains his memories of her. I feel so sorry for Mo Tak, because this really is falling to the lowest low, right after experiencing the highest high. 💔

[END SPOILER]

Kim Se Jung as Ha Na

To be honest, I’d found Kim Se Jeong just ok in School 2017, so I wasn’t exactly excited to see her as part of our Counter crew. However, I do think that Ha Na as a character suits her well, because I didn’t have any difficulty enjoying her in a reasonably solid way, in this show.

From the moment we meet Ha Na, she immediately comes across as rather deadpan and very badass, what with her impressive demon-fighting skills and her tendency to throw people against the wall, if they dared to touch her. Over the course of our story, though, we do get to learn more about Ha Na, and she does reveal a softer, more vulnerable side than one might initially expect. And, I can say that I’m pleasantly surprised by how organic – and sympathetic! – Ha Na ended up feeling to me, as a character.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E6. It’s unexpected but very heartwarming, to see that out of the Counter crew, it’s Ha Na who seeks So Mun out at his home, to help him see the face of his parents’ murderer. She might be standoffish, but there’s something about So Mun that unlocks kindness and empathy in her. I love the way she reaches out and holds his hand, and tells him that she’ll be right there with him, in the vision. Aw. Coming from the girl who instinctively flings people against the wall for daring to touch her, this is huge.

E8. Ha Na’s take-down of Song Man Ho (Kim Kwang Sik) is fierce and badass, but it’s the aftermath that really gets my attention. The way Ha Na asks for fried eggs, because that was her little sister’s favorite, when Mae Ok says they’ll eat whatever she wants, and the way she imagines talking with her little sister, as she eats the eggs, and apologizes, crying, for surviving alone.

That was very poignant, and it occurs to me that the rest of the crew finally knows the pain that Ha Na’s kept to herself, all this time. I kind of wish that we could see the rest of the crew comforting Ha Na, but it does seem fitting for Ha Na’s reserved personality, that she’d need some time to process this alone. The fact that the crew sits by quietly and literally fades away from the scene, feels respectful and empathetic.

E9. Ha Na going to So Mun’s house and bringing the fish bread to Gran so that So Mun’s grandparents wouldn’t worry, is really considerate of her. She’s a lot more caring than she’d like to let on. And I’m glad that she gets to enjoy a warm family meal with Grandpa and Gran, because it feels like this is just the sort of thing that she dearly misses, now that her family’s gone.

[END SPOILER]

Special shout-outs:

Lee Hong Nae as Cheong Sin

The moment Lee Hong Nae appears in episode 1 as a Level 3 spirit that our Counter crew needs to fight, I perked up with interest. I mean, Lee Hong Nae just looks pretty badass and fierce – and like quite the quintessential bad boy – with that shaved head, heh.

Without giving too much away, let me just say that Lee Hong Nae as Cheong Sin made a pretty compelling Big Bad for our story, and I found him to be very watchable, whether he was being earnest and innocent, or casually menacing. Nicely done.

Ahn Suk Hwan as Chairman Choi

Although Chairman Choi is a bit peripheral as a character, I really enjoyed him, too. Ahn Seok Hwan is a hoot as the Counters’ financier, and I love that he’s so entertainingly OTT in his taste for clothes, facial hair, accessories and fast cars. 😆

Ok Ja Yeon as Baek Hyang Hee

Lastly, shout-out to Ok Ja Yeon for her very versatile turn as a Level 3 spirit. I really found her quite interesting. One moment, she’s channeling dutiful housewife, and the next, she’s a gloating, cackling evil spirit. Very good. Also, eek. 😬

RELATIONSHIPS

The Counter crew

Before I met our Counter crew, I already loved them. I just really liked the idea of these powerful demon hunters who just happen to make delicious noodles that draw long lines and enduring crowds. That concept just tickles me. 😆 What a multi-talented crew we have. 🤩

I liked learning about our Counter gang, alongside So Mun. They really are kinda like X-Men, since besides super strength, they each also have their own special powers. It’s useful that Ha Na can sense demons well, and catch them well, and it’s also useful that Mo Tak is extra strong. And I just really like the fact that Mae Ok has healing powers. That’s a very nurturing sort of superpower, and it suits her well, since she turns out to be the most motherly one in the group. Their ability to wipe someone’s memory reminds me of Men in Black, which is definitely a useful power to have, and which also helps to amp up the superhero vibe.

My favorite thing to do with our Counter crew, though, has to be how they are a found family. In most of their cases, the Counter crew literally is the only family they have left in the world, and it warmed my heart greatly, every time they leaned into this dynamic, to show care, love and support for one another. 🥰

[SPOILER ALERT]

E4. I loved that moment when Mae Ok gets all perplexed at So Mun wanting to bear the consequences of beating up the bullies, saying that this reminds her of what it feels like to have a son, and So Mun answers tentatively, that this also reminds him of what it feels like to be a son, and what it’s like to make Mom angry. Omigosh, I love that so much that I don’t think I’ll be able to see Mae Ok and So Mun as anything other than mother and son, now. ❤️

E4. I love how the entire Counter crew shows up to defend So Mun at the heavenly Council discussion. I love how fiercely Mae Ok speaks on his behalf, and I also love Mo Tak’s observation, that the reason Mae Ok is able to do that with such confidence, is because she has the assurance that the rest of the team is there behind her. That’s so symbiotic; I love it.

E5. I really like the growing bond that we see forming between So Mun and Ha Na, pretty much against Ha Na’s will. I think it’s really sweet of So Mun to want to cheer her up and comfort her, after Ha Na gets reminded by the level 3 spirit of what happened to her family. There’s a solidarity between them, that comes from being the sole survivors of their respective families. It’s awful that they both experienced that, but it’s also comforting to see them finding a kind of solace in that solidarity.

E6. It’s very endearing how Mae Ok and Mo Tak end up visiting Yung, because they feel that the only way they can help So Mun, is to demand that the spirits help So Mun meet his parents again as promised. Also, I am getting a kick out of the running gag that Mo Tak is physically incapable of a graceful landing, in Yung. Heh.

E6. It also moves me to see Ha Na gravitating towards So Mun, because she’s always been so detached from everything and everyone. Yet, when it comes to So Mun, she gets involved, and it’s clear that she cares. And I felt like that moment when she tells Mo Tak that she hates lying to So Mun, was very telling. She definitely considers So Mun one of their own, and she clearly has a vested interest, where he’s concerned.

I really like the bond that’s forming between Ha Na and So Mun. She’s genuinely concerned about him, and I like how she’s looking out for him like a proper Noona.

E7. I love how Mae Ok is so protective of her crew, like they’re literally her babies. There’s the way she hugs and comforts So Mun, the moment she finds out that he saw his parents die all over again, in the memory vision, and there’s also the way she rolls up her sleeves and personally gets her hands dirty, in retaliation for everything that Noh Chang Gyu’s done to Mo Tak. The way she takes him down and beats him up, is so satisfying to watch, partly because Noh Chang Gyu and his men are so shocked at the ahjumma’s badassery, but also partly because she’s come out fighting like a mother hen determined to protect her chicklets.

That said, Noh Chang Gyu’s pursuit of our Counter crew this episode almost becomes a running gag, since they keep shocking him by surviving, and coming out stronger than he could ever imagine.

I was pleased that Show decided to end this episode showing us that our Counter crew not only survived the Truck Of Doom (which I was sure they would), but come out of it very much alive and kicking – with a flying car door to prove it. YES. Noh Chang Gyu’s look of discombobulated horror makes me want to watch the next episode, and soon.

E11. I very much appreciate how much the Counter crew cares about one another, and how everyone rushes to So Mun’s aid, the moment they realize he’s in danger. I’m also pleased and relieved that So Mun gets reinstated as a Counter. The crew just isn’t complete without him. ❤️

[END SPOILER]

So Mun’s best friends

I seriously love So Mun’s best friends Ung Min and Ju Yeon (Kim Eun Soo and Lee Ji Won). ❤️

I love how unconditionally and completely they love So Mun, and how fiercely they care for him and protect him, in all circumstances. Their relationship with So Mun is longstanding and deep, and made up of just the purest love. Augh. So good.

I perked up in a serious way, every time they appeared on my screen. I could not get enough of them, and found it a pity that as our story progressed, we saw less of them than at first.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. I love-love-LOVE how Ju Yeon and Ung Min react, when they realize that So Mun can walk again. First of all, I love that they agree not to ask further questions, when So Mun tells them that he can’t explain the details. They are just happy enough to know that his leg is all better, and that’s enough for them. How sweet is that? And then, when they see So Mun actually walk in front of them, the way they both dissolve into blubbering tears, just gets me right in the heart. There is so much love here. SO MUCH. As they group-hug So Mun to share his joy, my heart feels like it’s going to burst. I luff this little crew of besties. ❤️

And I love that when So Mun relapses into shock at the crosswalk, they spring into action like well-oiled machinery. They know exactly what to do, to help him, which shows that they’ve been there for him, for years, and I love that.

E4. I love how So Mun describes Ung Min and Ju Yeon, saying that they’re like parents to him. I love that. And I love how he talks about the way they’ve stuck with him through everything, even when he struggled with aphasia and walked with a limp. I love this friendship so much; it clearly runs very, very deep, and I can completely understand why the mere thought of Ung Min and Ju Yeon suffering because of him, would drive him to lose self-control.

E6. I love that we get some time with Ung Min and Ju Yeon this episode. I love them. They really are like family to So Mun. They hang out with him, they tolerate his secret-keeping (to a point), and they drop everything immediately, the minute they feel like So Mun needs them.

I feel comforted that in So Mun’s moment of crazy despair, his instinct is to call them, and they come running right away, and immediately pull him to safety, hugging him and letting him cry, and comforting and affirming him. They literally save So Mun, in every available sense of the word. I love them, so much.

E8. I always perk up whenever Ung Min and Ju Yeon show up in our story. I like how they help So Mun search for the reservoir without hesitation, but I love even more, how they appear to be permanent fixtures at So Mun’s parents’ memorial service. The idea that they’ve been with So Mun through EVERYTHING, and have never wavered or left him alone, is so heartwarming. When So Mun wants to bring flowers to his parents, they go with him to the intersection where the accident happened, and pledge to go together every year now, until they turn 30. What wonderful besties they are. I LOVE THEM. 😍😍

[END SPOILER]

Special shout-out:

So Mun’s grandparents

Ah, I really loved So Mun’s grandparents. They are so sweet and pure, and they are so loving, not just towards each other, but to So Mun as well. I’m extra moved by Grandpa, who takes care of Gran without a word of complaint even though she is often difficult to care for, due to her Alzheimer’s.

[SPOILER] One of my favorite scenes with So Mun’s grandparents, is in episode 4, where So Mun shows them that he can walk again. They are so happy and shocked that they cry happy tears, and I am just so, so glad that So Mun decides to share this with them. They are wonderfully warm and supportive, but it’s clear that they do worry about So Mun. To have their worries for him alleviated, must be such a gift. ❤️ It’s all so moving that it literally made me choke back tears. 😭 [END SPOILER]

STUFF THAT WAS OK

Choi Yoon Young as Detective Kim

I’ve got Detective Kim in this section because I found Choi Yoon Young just ok, in this role. Generally speaking, I felt like Choi Yoon Young didn’t command much screen presence as Detective Kim, and I also found her character quite ineffectual and uninteresting, in general.

The portrayal of Yung

This is quite possibly just a personal thing, but I found myself not liking very much the way Yung is portrayed.

[VAGUE HIGH LEVEL SPOILERS] What I mean is, rather than actually being partners with our Counter crew, the spirit Council often seems to function as a policing body instead, often finding fault with our crew for not doing things a certain way, and then not empathizing when our crew has to risk their lives in the line of duty. I didn’t like that much. 😒 [END SPOILER]

STUFF I LIKED LESS

Mayor Shin and his dirty minions

Mayor Shin and his dirty minions are a necessary evil in our story, but that doesn’t mean I have to like ’em, heh.

The more we see of the dark web that surrounds the Mayor, the more twisted and dysfunctional it all seems. All I can say is, if the politics we see on our screens is anything like politics in real life, the world is in serious trouble. 😬 The lengths that our political players are willing to go to, to ensure their political success, is disturbing and twisted. And a lot of the behavior that we see them display, is absolutely reprehensible. I was pleased when Show eventually forced each of them to face the consequences of their evil actions.

Sometimes the violence can be hard to watch

This is OCN, after all, and so, even though Show as a whole leans more warm and heartfelt than one might typically associate with OCN, the violence and bloodshed is quite definitive OCN fare.

Not only is the demon fighting sometimes violent and bloody to the point of being difficult to watch, the bullying arc in school is also, alarmingly, sometimes almost as brutal and bloody.

I found that sometimes, I needed to avert my eyes. 😬

Fantasy logic inconsistencies [SPOILERS]

It seems to me that some of the rules around Yung and how everything works is either not super clear, or not very consistent.

Unclear

I’m rather curious why Su Ho almost disappeared, while Mae Ok was fighting for her life in episode 11. I know Show’s been hammering home the point that our Counters and their Spirits are connected, but in our opening episode, when So Mun’s predecessor Cheol Jung (Sung Ji Ru) dies while fighting Ji Cheong Sin, Wigen didn’t have the same experience as Su Ho this episode.

We don’t see what happens to Wigen while she’s in Yung, but we do see that she had the option of quickly finding a new host, which is how So Mun became a Counter. Su Ho should have had that option too, if Mae Ok had died – and given the fact that he’s been researching potential new Counters to take So Mun’s place, he’d actually know where the potential candidates are, which is more than what Wigen had had. So this all would appear to be artificially dramatically amped up?

Inconsistent

We see from the disciplinary trial that Wigen had full knowledge of So Mun’s thoughts, feelings and emotions, because she was with him (or part of him), and could feel everything he felt. That’s how she’s able to assert that he’d had murderous thoughts, and therefore wasn’t suitable to be a Counter.

However, for the rest of the show, our spirit partners are often shown to be in a tizzy because their Counters aren’t responding to their telepathic summonses. Does Wigen have special access to So Mun that the other spirit partners don’t have, or did Show forget about this inconsistency?

The transition between writers: SPOTLIGHT ON EPISODE 13 [SPOILERS]

This was the episode that was written by this show’s PD, after Show’s original writer left due to creative differences. And I’m gonna hafta say, I do feel the change in writer.

Even though our story’s moving along, this episode feels rather rushed, like too many plot points are being thrown about, all at once. Also, through it all, there’s something.. mechanical and perfunctory, and a little hollow about the writing this episode, like everything’s more sketched in than fully fleshed-out. As a consolation, the rest of the episodes are written by Show’s new writer (ie, not the PD), so there’s hope yet, for our final 3 episodes.

I don’t want to be too much of a downer, since this is a transitional episode, and what I find problematic about this episode might not be relevant in our coming episodes, so I’ll be quite brief.

In terms of believability, I’d say that I found it easier to accept some plot points over others. For example, I could believe that Cheong Sin would go back to the orphanage to take revenge on the “father” who’d tormented him, and make him kill himself, in pretty much the same way he’d made Manager Bae kill himself. And I can believe that Cheong Sin would have a soft spot for the orphanage kids, since he’d been one of them himself. What I find hard to believe, is that the same orphanage kid who’d witnessed Cheong Sin killing his companion (who’d been trying to kill and eat the kid), and had then hidden in terror from him, would then come forward to plead with So Mun not to hurt Cheong Sin, while So Mun’s trying to summon the evil spirit in Cheong Sin. That doesn’t make sense to me.

I found the barrier thing better in concept than execution, in that the execution leaned a little cheap and hammy. The magic staffs looked like cheap props painted white for a Christmas play, and the dramatic white eyes were a little OTT for my taste. But I do rather like the idea that Chairman Choi is part of the action, alongside the rest of the crew. That was a nice touch.

The entire arc around Mo Tak working with Han Ul to pin down the culprits behind Detective Kim’s death feels rather fast and convenient. The conversations along the way, like the one between Mo Tak and the vehicle owner, who assumes that Mo Tak had caught his girlfriend cheating on him in the carpark, feel like filler, and the somewhat comic tone feels dissonant to my ears. But in principle, I do like the fact that the dirty cops are arrested.

The way So Mun realizes that the trigger for his ability to summon the territory, has to do with his desire to save people rather than his desire to hurt people, feels rather shoehorned in and convenient, but I’ll take it, because I just liked having Ung Min and Ju Yeon back on my screen, and their shocked faces at the sight of So Mun leaping right over the Truck Of Doom, was pretty great.

THEMES / IDEAS [SPOILERS]

Aside from the big idea of found family, one of the other big ideas that Show attempts to explore, is the idea of whether monsters – and conversely, heroes – are born or made.

When it comes to the bullies in school, it becomes clear, once we meet their parents, that these parents have raised bullies by example.

Out of all the bullies, Hyeok U (Jung Won Chang) in particular, who has arguably had the most messed up childhood, being the son of our very evil and very casually cruel Mayor Shin, is especially cruel, and even seems ready to kill, on more than one occasion. Eventually, though, Hyeok U is given a bit of a redemption arc, triggered by So Mun’s kindness and compassion. Which would imply that all Hyeok U really needed, to be a good and nice person, was kindness.

And then, of course, there’s Cheong Sin, who’s been raised by cruel and violent men, both in and out of the orphanage. And he turns into a murderer who then hosts our most powerful evil spirit in this drama world. At the same time, Cheong Sin is shown to have a soft spot for the children at the orphanage, because he’d used to be one of them, and he also refrains from hurting or killing any of the kids.

With all of this circumstantial evidence, it would seem that Show is suggesting that people wouldn’t be monsters, if they’re brought up right and treated with love and kindness.

However, there’s also the fact that not everyone who’s suffered a cruel childhood turns into a monster who takes out their frustrations on helpless victims.

I mean, look at Ung Min, who was bullied every day, and beaten up to within an inch of his life. All he wanted was for the terror to stop; he didn’t actually have vengeful thoughts towards his bullies. And when So Mun requests that Ung Min help Hyeok U by giving him a place to stay, Ung Min agrees, albeit reluctantly.

And then there’s the case of So Mun, whom I sincerely feel might have been born with a hero’s heart. He does have the benefit of being cared for by very loving grandparents, but he did lose his parents very tragically, and he did have a disability because of that accident. And yet, instead of being bitter and angry at the world, he had a hero’s heart from the moment we met him, when he’d tried to defend Ung Min, despite being at a disadvantage himself.

In the end, while it does feel like Show is leaning more towards nurture as an answer rather than nature, it also feels like Show is leaving this idea open – probably for us to explore further in Season 2. 😉

THOUGHTS ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]

All in all, this was a very solid penultimate episode, all things considered.

It was a good twist, to have the Level 4 spirit hide in Hyeok U rather than in Mayor Shin, where we’d expected him to be. I totally didn’t see this twist coming, so Show gets brownie points for that.

I am admittedly very worried about Mae Ok. I know that Show’s already got a second season planned, but since it’s completely possible to retain the concept of the show while swopping out Counters, I’m still nervous. I don’t want anything bad to happen to Mae Ok! 😫 She’s the mother hen that the crew needs, and I’m anxious that Jeong Gu (Sohn Ho Jun) pronounces that she doesn’t have a lot of time left. Guh. Take that back, Show! 😭

What a great cameo by Sohn Ho Jun, though. I must say, I’d expected Sohn Ho Jun’s cameo to be short and snappy like most cameos are, so I was pleasantly surprised that his character sticks around for a good amount of time this episode, and has history with Mo Tak, even. I love that we have enough time with Jeong Gu to get a sense of his personality – and it’s a personality that suits Sohn Ho Jun perfectly, all jokester with a whiny touch, while hiding a big marshmallow heart underneath.

I thought it was really clever of Show to introduce him in an ambiguous fashion; for a hot second, I thought that he was the evil spirit in the scene, instead of the Counter. How funny, though, that for all his big talk, he gets knocked down so quickly by a Level 2 spirit. So Mun is right; he did save Jeong Gu’s life.

I do love Jeong Gu’s big heart. Even though he grumbles about it to Chairman Choi, he’s sincere about wanting to heal Mae Ok, and even though he could’ve left to return to Singapore afterwards, since Korea’s not his jurisdiction, he chooses to stay, so that Mae Ok can rest and be safe – and then he protects Mo Tak with his own body, when the Level 4 spirit sends a flying letter opener at them, which then eventually kills him. Oof. That was really sad; I’d already grown fond of Jeong Gu, and was kinda hoping that we’d see more of him in Season 2. But now he is no more. 😭

As a big silver lining, I do really like the twist – and this one feels organic and warranted – that Jeong Gu’s spirit parter Dong Pal (Im Ji Kyu) finds a new host in So Mun. Woah. I did not see that coming! 🤯 And yet, there’s no rule that Show’s established, that a Counter can only host one spirit partner at any one time.

That was nicely done – and it’s in perfect keeping with the idea that Show’s been fanning all series long, that So Mun is a special Counter, with potential that other Counters don’t have. Now I’m really excited to see what else So Mun can do, especially now that he has two spirit partners instead of one. Will this double his superhuman strength, for example? Or perhaps unlock new powers, like healing, since Jeong Gu could heal while he was a Counter? I want to know! 🤩

Beyond his potential as a Counter, though, one of the things I love most about So Mun is his big heart. Given all that Hyeok U’s done to terrorize So Mun and his friends, I’m impressed at how much compassion So Mun shows Hyeok U, even while Hyeok U retains his prickly outer shell and spits out hurtful words. Even before So Mun reads Hyeok U’s memories and learns about Hyeok U’s dysfunctional, twisted upbringing, he already has enough benevolence to treat Hyeok U with kindness. That’s truly mature beyond his years, and I love him for it.

What is this thing, where the Level 4 spirit is able to use the taxi driver as an avatar, as he pleases? Are we to simply assume that now that he’s Level 4, he’s got powers that we haven’t learned about? Or are we supposed to assume that Taxi Driver has had the strong impulse to kill..? 😬

As our Counters get ready to face off with our Level 4 spirit, it’s so moving and heartbreaking in one, that they are literally getting ready to potentially face their deaths. The way we see each of them putting their things in order, the way they agree to take a picture together, and the way they tell Chairman Choi to stay behind because there’s got to be someone there to welcome new Counters, all point towards the possibility that some or all of them might not make it back alive. 😭

I’m hopeful, though, that So Mun will have some new strength and new powers to tap into, so that we can have the team alive and intact, by the time we end this season. Please let all our Counters make it, Show! 🥺

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

Overall, I found this finale solidly satisfying, although I do think Show could have reeled it in a little, with the feel-good epilogue-type stuff.

Let me back up.

I think in a drama like this, there’s a balance that Show needs to strike between the action and the heartwarming feels. In a western iteration of this story, I’d imagine that the emphasis would be on the adrenalin rush of fighting our Big Bad, and I’d expect the action around fighting him, to last until almost the very end, leaving little time for anything else. We’d probably end on a high of defeating the Big Bad. The end. Cue victorious feel-good music and ending credits.

In a kdrama, though, the emphasis is more on the characters, their relationships and their backstories. The fighting of the Big Bad is just a means to that end. And that’s why Show chooses to finish off our crew’s fight with Level 4, within the first 10 minutes of our finale. I don’t mind this in principle; I just felt that it was all finished and resolved maybe a little too early, leaving too much time for the heartwarming stuff. Also, there’s been so much build-up over how formidable our Level 4 is, that having him finished off in just 10 minutes of our finale feels a little too easy?

There are things left to be resolved on the emotional front, sure, and I appreciated each of those arcs, as they were served up. It’s just that once those were given the screen time they deserved, it felt like Show was left with extra time on its hands, and so it just waved its hand and spun some filler fluff for us, to take us to the end of the hour. This felt rather meandering and indulgent to my eyes, and – not gonna lie – I felt a bit bored and distracted by these last filler bits, which, for good measure, included some bemusing PPL for Parkland’s tailor services. 🙄 I know PPL is a necessary evil and it pays the bills, so I’m sorry to say this, but this really took away some of Show’s perceived creative integrity, in my eyes. 😔😝

On the upside, our characters all remain true to their established personalities, with spots of growth here and there. I appreciated this a lot, especially given the fact that, technically speaking, writer-nim has only written them for the last 3 episodes.

I like that So Mun doesn’t bow to Level 4’s taunting threat, and chooses to trust his team members to keep his grandparents safe, while he does the work of summoning Level 4. That was a tough decision to make, especially with the danger to his grandparents so real and near that he can smell it, but he grits his teeth and makes it anyway, in faith. And that’s exactly the kind of heroic, loyal behavior I’d expect of So Mun.

On a tangent, there’s absolutely no reason why Cheong Sin needs to be shirtless in this scene, ha. My guess is that PD-nim is fully aware of Lee Hong Nae’s growing popularity due to this role, and decided that a gratuitous shirtless scene would please fans, while positioning Lee Hong Nae for more popularity to come. 😂

I did really like So Mun’s reunion with his parents. His last-minute hesitation feels organic (sometimes we’re afraid to face the things that we’ve longed for, after all, and I think he also just deeply wanted his parents to be able to recognize him, without him having to tell them who he was), and I was suitably moved at his parents’ tearful joy, gratitude and regret, at the sight of their son.

It hit me in the heart, that the thing So Mun’s been wanting to tell his parents, is that he’s sorry for lying; that the fact that they’d died the way they did, was all his fault. Oof. That’s such a terrible burden to bear, and it makes my heart ache to think that all this time, So Mun’s been carrying this deep sense of guilt in this heart. 🥺💔 I’m so glad that he gets to get it all out with his parents, and that it’s healing and cathartic for all three of them.

I also like that Show doesn’t forget So Mun’s grandparents. The reveal that So Mun’s parents had been murdered hits them hard, and I’m comforted by how Show chooses to give them a sense of release and closure, by having Ha Na be the channel through which all four of them get to be together, in their dreams.

Show seems to be hinting at the possibility of a future loveline between So Mun and Ha Na, given all the teasing that these two have been enduring cumulatively over the course of our story, and I’m not sure how I feel about that, honestly. I think I’d actually prefer it if Show were to keep their connection platonic. I find it so earnest and pure, how they’ve clearly grown soft spots for each other, as they’ve stood by each other during tough times. But let’s see what happens, when it happens.

I’m glad for Ha Na, that she’s finally able to acknowledge that even though she still doesn’t understand her parents, it was still good to see them that day when she’d semi-blacked out.

I’m also pleased that Chairman Choi gets to go on that date with Mae Ok, which she’d promised when she thought that she would likely die. Aw. It’s cute that he’s so happy to spend time with her, even though she falls deep asleep on their drive.

I really liked that Mae Ok, Mo Tak and Ha Na get to hang out with their fallen team mate Cheol Jung again, and I think the idea of him coming to meet them at the noodle restaurant, is perfect. This is something that they’ve been longing and working for, just as much as So Mun’s been longing and working to see his parents one last time, and I’m glad that their wish is acknowledged and granted in such a heartwarming way.

Mayor Shin gets sentenced to life in prison, and Hyeok U apologizes to his victims, even as he decides to drop out of school. These were pretty alright arcs, I’d say. It does give a sense of closure to arcs which have been pretty significant in our story.

I didn’t feel much everything else that Show served up, like So Mun’s scene with Ung Min and Ju Yeon, which felt oddly hollow, and out of character when compared with all their other interactions, and also, everything else that happens after the one month time skip.

The road trip felt tacked on, and the tailoring service PPL even more tacked on. 🙄 I’m probably also very attached to the whole red sweatsuit uniform that our crew’s been sporting, coz I did not actually like the idea of them ditching the sweatsuits for actual suits, ha. 😝 Maybe that’s why I cringed at the tailoring PPL as much as I did. 😅

I do think Show’s leaning hard into its comic book vibe in these last couple of minutes of the finale; at least, that’s the lens that best helps me to roll with what Show is serving up. I’ll admit that I found this last shot rather cheesy, but that’s not stopping me from chomping at the bit for more of our endearing, big-hearted crew.

May Season 2 come soon, and may it be at least as good as Season 1! 😉

THE FINAL VERDICT:

A solidly engaging and heartwarming ride, despite Show’s darker bent and some narrative hiccups.

FINAL GRADE: B++

TEASER:

MV:

PATREON UPDATE!

The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of The Uncanny Counter, is River Where The Moon Rises. I’ve taken an initial look, and Show looks promising so far! 😄 EDIT: River has now been swopped out for Vincenzo, due to the Ji Soo scandal (my thoughts here).

If you’d like to join me on the journey, you can find my Patreon page here. You can also read more about all the whats, whys, and hows of helping this blog here. Thanks for all of your support, it really means a lot to me. ❤️

26 thoughts on “Review: The Uncanny Counter

  1. Pingback: Ji Soo’s fall from grace: What’s a reasonable response? (Also, Patreon implications for this blog) | The Fangirl Verdict

  2. manganoes

    I agree with almost all the points you made! Although I might have some idea about the Yung partners disappearing as the Counters die: the reason Wigen wasn’t shown disappearing is that she wasn’t shown at all, prior to her finding a host in So Mun—so she probably did start! But beginning to disappear doesn’t seem to mean certain death for the Yung partners, since Jeong Gu’s Yung partner also began disappearing as Jeong Gu died, yet still found So Mun. I think what might be more unclear than this is why So Mun did not display any new healing powers after he gained another Yung partner in Dong Pal (which will hopefully be examined more in season 2!). Otherwise, I’m glad I wasn’t the only one to find inconsistencies in the way Yung and its laws were structured!

    Reply
  3. Elaine Phua

    Agree with most others, episodes 1-12 were great and well-written to integrate crime mystery with superhero story, but episodes 13-16 were kind of a bummer, too much circling in place trying to take down the big bad. Perhaps the show would have done better with a tighter arc at 12 episodes instead. Also it didn’t make sense to me that (spoiler) the personification of the evil spirit in Yung was Ji Cheong Sin, cos previously the “real” face of the evil spirit was always someone else. I would have preferred to have a big baddie team face-off against the Counters at the end, it looked rather unfair to have 1 vs 4! Also, the final dilemma between saving grandparents vs finishing big bad didn’t make sense, if he had so much energy left to control the truck and car telekinetically he could have easily fought off the exorcism! In previous encounters, they always had to overpower or KO the human host before they could exorcise the evil spirit.

    On a side note, it was useful for me to watch Run On before this, so I got exposed to the culture of bullying that is overlooked by teachers, and prejudice against orphans. How bizarre, are Koreans really that prejudiced against orphans irrationally to term them as immoral and criminal when they’re still kids?!

    Reply
  4. Trent

    Thank you for another detailed and thoughtful review!

    I liked this, but I think a notch or two less than a lot of people who are really enthusiastic about it. I basically second what DramaFan says in their recent comment. For some reason, I found the sharpness of my interest decreasing somewhat over the latter half, and I don’t think it was really because of the change in writers. More that I felt the story wasn’t really progressing in a super-engaging direction (to me, at least).

    I think the strongest element this had going for it was the relationships and camaraderie among our core group of counters. They really did adopt each other as family and they were really believably sincere about how they stuck up for each other and supported each other. And they were behind So Mun right from the start, no hesitancy or probation period or anything, they were 100% in his corner from the first. That was a really great touch.

    It’s funny, I hadn’t ever heard of or seen Kim Se-jeong before, but apparently a lot of people have opinions about her, in both directions? I dunno, she seemed perfectly fine to me in this, and I thought she played a reserved noona with a core of warmth and caring very well.

    I appreciate you pointing out how each of the cable channels have a kind of “house brand” effect going. It’s something I’d never really noticed, I guess because I hadn’t been paying attention. But now I’m going to be on the lookout for it, see if I can distinguish the overall feel among tvN, JTBC, and OCN dramas…

    P.S. I’m pretty intrigued by the first two episodes of Sisyphus. Looks good, high production values, I like Park Shin-hye…hope the story continues to develop in an interesting coherent direction…

    Reply
  5. Drama Fan

    I finished it today and as I was ranting with Kfangurl on FB I felt a little let down because I felt the first episodes were super tight and I got emotionally invested right away but in later eps my interest started to dissipate a bit, however, I finished it and it was overall a fun watch. What I liked was the Counters and their friendship. I loved Mun, he was such an underdog at the beginning, it was impossible not to fall for him. Loved his arch, with his parents, his grandparents, his friends, the school bullying etc. I liked Mo Tak, Ha Na and Mrs Cha (I also cried at her scene with her son) That whole aspect of the drama was great. Like Kfangurl, my least favorite aspect was the mayor and his minions. I thought there were too many bad guys lol and even though the actors were good, the characters were a bit one dimensional. The main demon was scary though, so at least the sense of danger was always there. The afterlife people also got on my nerves, especially Wi Gen. I had to adjust my expectations once I realized that the drama was on the “campy” side. But in the end, it was a very fun ride for the most part and it had a lot of heart.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      I realize that I wasn’t prepared for it to be campy either, DF! 😅 So I was a little thrown right at the end, when they leaned hard into the campy side of things. My favorite look on Show, is when it’s being all badass and big-hearted, at the same time. I’d have preferred the camp to have stayed subtle, like in the beginning. Also, hi5, I didn’t take that well to the spirit partners either, except for Mae Ok’s son, who seemed like a good egg. Mo Tak’s partner with her almost constant frown and her habit of yelling into her invisible earpiece was my least favorite. 😝😅 Still, I have to admit I enjoyed this show a lot, and I’m glad that you liked it quite well too, despite your frustration with it! 😃

      Reply
      1. Eric

        Agree about the spirit guides being losers. My favorite moment from the show was Mo Tak (backed up by other the other counters) taking their Spirit partners to task. “You benched our star player before the big game!”. Which was well deserved since they were acting like ridiculous officious idiots while the counters were in a life and death (lots of death really) struggle with the evil super spirit. This was really the ideal time to enforce the rules by disqualifying their new Counter with a super powerful and rare ability? And come super close to removing all of the counters? Really? How the heck was that supposed to work?

        The only thing that forgives this a bit is that Mun didn’t really seem to lose his powers entirely (although if that was clearly explained, I missed it), making it more of a ruse than the main plan. But still.

        And agree Mun had a great character arc in learning to control his anger and trust his partners rather than being driven by rage. The parts at the beginning/middle when he would rush off to fight on his own – he really needed to outgrow this. the whole point of his power is to be a team player and amplify the talents of the others. If anything they should have had him doing this more at the end when he finally got it, energizing Ha Na’s ability to find stuff, Mo Tak’s strength, Mrs. Cha’s healing, etc.

        Reply
  6. phl1rxd

    Hi Fangul! I really enjoyed this. I loved the friendship and the team feelz. I will definitely watch the second season. My favorite character was Chairman Choi (loved his earrings) and I found the elevator fight scene to be pretty electrifying.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      So glad you enjoyed this one too, dear phl!! ❤️ The friendship and the team feels definitely made this very special. 🥰🥰 Tee hee. I did guess that Chairman Choi would be your favorite, and yes, his earrings were quite outstanding! 😂 Guh. I couldn’t breathe during that elevator scene, it was breathtaking – literally! 😆

      Reply
  7. Pingback: Dear kfangurl: What are some good dramas that aren’t romances? | The Fangirl Verdict

  8. Prashil Prakash

    This was such a fun watch!
    And despite the dark premise it was still a warm show.
    I’d say it shares a lot of cozy vibes with last year’s beautiful ‘Mystic pop-up bar’.
    And while id say that I prefer the latter, I still think this was a perfectly adventurous ride!

    And So-mun is actually a great character despite the gives the whole whiny and unwilling protagonist vibes.
    I thoroughly enjoyed his resolve to be wanting to save everyone and I honestly think he’s like Shinji Akari(Neon Genesis Evangalion) Except he’s actually Likeable, has personality and not a doormat!

    Generally I am not a proponent of a Season 2 but this show can work really well with the season 2 concept because of the world and characters it has built up.

    And the Interesting Possibilities could include
    So Mun’s school friends getting time to shine,
    The Bully kid’s story and a closing up his character arc.
    And This one’s a slippery slope but So mun and Hana relationship, which was perfectly done in season 1 by not making it a romance centric show. But season 2 can definitely build up on that and drop healthy mix of Noona Romance (again it’s a slippery slope but if done well it could be so good)

    And Lastly but not Leastly, scenes with the squads new awesome and slick gear. They look super fresh!

    Aight Imma head out to my territory now!
    Peace ✌️😊

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Glad you enjoyed this one too, Prashil!! 😃 It really is a fun watch, despite its shortcomings – which, to be fair, are reasonably minor, in the overall scheme of things. 😊

      Jo Byung Gyu hinted that there might be a loveline between So Mun and Ha Na in Season 2, so your prediction might just come true! Also, YES, I’d love to see more of Ung Min and Ju Yeon in Season 2. When they faded into the sidelines in the second half of the show, I missed them.

      Reply
  9. seankfletcher

    I found Uncanny was up and down. It certainly had some good elements. I think other members of my family were more taken with it than I was.

    The concept of a team of counters was a good one as was using the “Territory.” Working as a team will always see good triumph over evil. And as for our bad guys and gals, they were awesome plus. Like you kfangurl, I didn’t have much time for the Mayor’s character.

    My favourite character was the Chairman. Every actor dreams of being larger than life. He certainly was way more charming than his foray in Chuno 😂

    Yeom Hye Ran was so good. She just turns out a good performance in everything she does.

    I do wish our “detective couple” had had a better outcome. But that’s life and perhaps, that’s OCN too.

    Now for probably what is an unpopular opinion. I wasn’t a big fan of So Mun as such, although his first five episodes were quite good. I know he was the central character, but I was more interested in the rest of the team.

    I did find Eps 13-16 a let down and I didn’t enjoy the ending all that much. That’s not to say it wasn’t a nice ending, because it was. The outcome for our number one bad guy was also satisfying. The final moments though were what they should be.

    Will I watch Season 2? I did give Uncanny a decent score overall. However, the likelihood of me watching what comes next is 50/50.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Aw, I’m glad you still managed to enjoy this one, Sean – even though it was in a relatively limited capacity. 😅 And yes, Chairman Choi WAS larger than life – a very refreshing character, which helped balance my feelings for Ahn Suk Hwan, while watching Chuno! 😆😂

      I agree Eps 13-16 were more wobbly than the rest of the show, particularly E13. I guess if we’d had the original writer through to the end, we’d have gotten something a lot more cohesive – but now we’ll never know..! 😅

      Reply
  10. Eric

    Yes, everything that you said. Only I would give this a straight A with consideration for A+. I loved the characters and all the actors really brought them to life. One thing I got totally wrong was my prediction of the ending – I expected that both Mo Tak and Mae Ok would die. They both were having premonitions of mortality (esp the way Mae Ok was worn down by her healing, hair turning grey) and by the end were both more connected with the dead than the living (Mae Ok and her son). Wouldn’t it make sense to them to both journey beyond with Mae Ok’s son and Mo Tak’s finance? So, it would have made a kind of logical sense for them to die suitably heroic deaths. I expected their spirits to jump into Mun’s school chums, giving Mun and Ha Na the backup to finish off the big bad. Totally didn’t happen but it would have been fun. Of course, I love both actors so won’t be complaining to see them in season 2. Where I can still hope they do recruit the kids as new counters, which would be fun.
    One thing wrong was the way the show was kind of half-in, half-out on whether there is a Mun/Ha Na romance or not. I suppose this is not too bad if a season 2 comes along, but this kind of relationship they should develop it more or just drop it.
    Similarly, the Ma Ok “date” at the end – this seemed to come out of nowhere without adequate prep to make much sense.
    This show made me a fan of the lead actors. I definitely want to see them all in other roles as well. Yu Jun Sang brought a lot of depth to Mo Tak, who was originally just kind of a busier. And Kim Se Jung had to express a lot by glance and gesture with little supporting dialog, especially in the early episodes. Bravo.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Oh, I like where your narrative ideas were going, Eric! Very interesting! Although I am definitely pleased to keep Mae Ok and Mo Tak, since they are both great. 🤩

      I thought Show did a fairly decent job hinting at Chairman Choi’s affection for Mae Ok, even though it was rather small throwaway sort of bits and pieces, until the actual date. I wasn’t actually taken by surprise with that.

      Jo Byung Gyu himself hinted that there might be a loveline between So Mun and Ha Na in Season 2, so they might just go into the noona romance proper like you suggested!

      PS: I definitely would’ve given Show an A-grade, if it had stayed more narratively consistent in its second half! 😉

      Reply
      1. Eric

        I read that there was a change in writer in the last couple episodes. This may explain some of the inconsistencies there.

        I should not complain too much about the Mae Ok / Mr. Choi bit – it didn’t really bother me and it did have some set up. Just seemed a little peripheral but not the kind of thing to detract from a fun show.

        The part about his classmates. I pictured this as either
        1) both get badly injured/comatose and this provides a nice way to both revive them and advance the plot
        OR
        2) they are given the powers straight up with the payoff (for them) being the chance to save Mun. It would be in character for them to take that, like Mun took his deal, without needing a second chance to live.

        They can save this for season 2.

        Reply
  11. Kay

    I hadn’t planned on watching this originally, but after hearing so many good things about it, I have added it to my list. And it’s good to see that you enjoyed too since at first glance I wouldn’t think it would be one you would go for either. Here’s hoping it works out for me too! 🙂

    Reply
      1. Kay

        Mostly just because I’m pretty particular with my crime dramas. I don’t like episodic shows so I always go for heavily serialized dramas. From the trailers and initial plot descriptions, I thought it might lean too heavily episodic for me. I’ve heard it has a pretty solid overarching story since then though along with a helping of heart. Plus, hearing you think I might like it sounds very promising 🙂

        Reply
        1. kfangurl Post author

          Hm.. The episodic flavor in this one isn’t very strong, actually. They do have some one-off evil spirits sprinkled into the story, but by and large they are working towards eliminating One Big Bad, so that’s much more an overarching sort of thing. I hope that helps! 😃

          Reply
          1. Kay

            The One Big Bad is definitely the way to go in my book, hehe. And it does sound like the overarching story wins out in this one. I will definitely be giving it a try 🙂

            Reply
  12. Webby

    I love that you loved this! Jo Byeung Gu as So Mun is indeed a discovery. And the found family is just LOVE. I have 2 questions:
    1. What exactly happened to Hana’s family? I can’t tell if they were poisoned or died from bad food and poverty?
    2. What’s stopping the A grade? I noticed the B plus PLUS but clearly something held you back?! What was it?

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Ahh, so glad you loved this too, Webby! 😃 Jo Byung Gyu is great in this.. now I’m nervous about the bullying accusations that have suddenly started flying at him, because depending on how that all goes, it might end up derailing his career. 😬

      I don’t think Show is all that clear about what happened to Ha Na’s family, though my guess is that the parents poisoned everyone to commit suicide as a family.. At least, I think that’s why she says that she still cannot understand her parents..?

      For me, Show was actually in A-grade territory, until the narrative hiccups showed up. E13 was a downer for sure, and then the stuff that didn’t work for me in the finale also dragged down the grade. If Show had remained more consistent, I would’ve given it an A grade for sure!

      Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      So glad you loved this too, Kaia! 😃 And I agree that this is one of those shows that would more easily appeal to a male audience! How fun, that you and your hubs watched this together!

      Reply

Leave a Reply