Patreon Year End Awards: Reem’s Year In Dramas!

Hey everyone!

We’re having guest posts from the lovely folks on Patreon, to help us take stock of our drama years, kinda-sorta like what we had last year, woot! 🥳

We’ll be seeing about 2 guest posts per week, and this will unfold into January 2023, and that’s perfectly ok. AND, my annual year-in-review, which usually comes out in December, will also come out in January (or thereabouts 😅), after all the guest posts have been published.

If you missed our earlier posts, you can check them out as follows: phl1rxd, j3ffc, Uyen, Sean, Martina, David, Natalia, MC, Leslie.

Today, I’m pleased to announce that Reem is sharing her drama year!

Reem’s one of our newer friends here on the blog, as well as on Patreon, and I’m so glad that she offered to write this post, because, what better way to get to know a drama friend better, than to peek at their drama journey, and their drama year, right? 😁

Thanks so much for doing this, Reem!

I hope you guys enjoy!

KFG ❤️

Introduction

The name’s Reem. By day, I teach high school mathematics, and by night I watch dramas, play video games, and read manga (or plain old books, but it’s admittedly been a hot second).

How did I get here? Well, that’s not such a complicated story.

I was born and raised in the U.S., but my family and heritage are Lebanese. As a result of general cultural estrangement (no one’s fault really, just a reality of growing up in the diaspora), I’ve never been particularly plugged into Arabic pop culture.

I did grow up with my mother watching old (mostly Egyptian) dramas and movies on channels like ART and MBC (that one’s Saudi though), but I never tried following along because Egyptian Arabic is very…unique and these movies and series never had subtitles.

We even once got into an Arabic drama called “Omar” – a biographical work about one of Islam’s most important historical figures – one year during Ramadan. I guess we can say that was baby’s first Asian drama…albeit west Asian rather than east Asian.

Via online cultural osmosis and friends already somewhat plugged into the kdrama scene, I do eventually give a couple a try.

I remember attempting to watch “Strong Girl Do Bong Soon” when it was still on Netflix, but couldn’t get into it (maybe I’ll go back one day for Park Hyung Sik).

I even tried the cdrama “Accidentally in Love”, and “Crash Landing on You”, and then I just sort of decided maybe kdramas weren’t for me. After all, who has the attention span to sit through a whole hour? And how come the romantic leads aren’t meeting yet?

So I wandered away, tried other things. Did I mention I like video games? Yeah, more on that later.

Then I learn something via my grandparents. I find out that Korean dramas get dubbed into Arabic; not that they watch any, they follow Turkish dramas (also dubbed into Arabic) instead.

Still, this piques my interest. It’s information to file away for later, when—

You guessed it. Fast forward to spring 2021.

At the time I had a part-time job as an aide for a kindergarten class.

Normally I spent my evenings more creatively – writing mostly – but between my search for a full-time job and a traffic-riddled commute and the stress of working out of the house during the pandemic, I didn’t have the mental energy for creativity.

Instead, I decided to give “Crash Landing on You” another try, and what do you know? It worked this time.

Lightning struck.

I finished it pretty quickly and immediately wanted to watch another kdrama. I turned to one of my friends, and she was all too eager to recommend more.

At the time I thought “there are so many dramas out there so I’d better stick with recommendations from friends I trust”.

This resolution turned out to be short lived as I sank deeper and deeper into the catalogue of available dramas, but the first one she recommended – “Queen for Seven Days” – got me so good that I still haven’t managed to recover from the way I tend to glom onto sageuks and period dramas.

I ended up taking a break from dramas again that summer, after the initial two.

The thing is, as I’ve come to realize between starting my current job as a high school teacher, that when I need that easy escape, dramas (and manga and video games) are where I turn to.

So my first year of teaching, starting in October 2021, I watched (or started) so many dramas. I started with Netflix dramas like “Hometown Cha Cha Cha” (which took me months to finish…whoops), then “Rookie Historian”, then “The Crowned Clown”.

I gobbled up sageuks in particular, in love with the swoony period romance and riveted by court politics and dazzled by the beautiful and colorful hanbok.

Then, as I ran out of good-quality sageuks to watch, I branched out more…and am still trying to branch out more, truthfully.

I’ve still decisively settled on things that immediately grab my attention, versus things that might not.

Obviously I’m still a bit of a sucker for sageuk – historical settings have that escapism that you just need sometimes.

I prefer a good romance over no romance at all, but sometimes I’m all right if it’s not at the center or the main driver of the plot.

And even though I’ll try just about anything, given enough time, I’m much less likely to look twice at a high school drama (I teach at a high school; I see enough teenage drama in my day-to-day life 😅), or something more slice-of-life, or a workplace rom com where the romance is between a male superior and a female subordinate.

Lines that I’m not psyched about crossing, you could say.

All that said, 2022 (especially the middle part through autumn) hasn’t been the greatest drama year for me, at least with respect to the number of dramas I watched (and, crucially, finished).

But I think I’ve got enough of a list in my “completed” list to dig into for this.🥰

Top Dramas of 2022

1. Twenty Five Twenty One (2022)

Disclaimer: I did not originally have this one in my top spot, but then I realized…it’s one that’s really firmly stuck with me, and that I find myself thinking about more and more lately, perhaps as I reflect on my drama year and other dramas I’m in the process of watching (like “Reborn Rich” with its IMF crisis concurrency).

And then, as I reconsidered my placement, I thought, “Wait, is not the drama that’s lingered with me the longest, of which some scenes still live rent-free in my mind, worthy of the ‘top drama’ spot, of which I am the sole judge?”

So that’s how “Twenty-Five Twenty-One” won its top spot!

Because despite my quibbles with certain things and decisions – despite my personal baggage around 9/11 and the fact that subplot seriously threw me off and upset me for a good bit – this is just THE drama of 2022 for me.

I mean, I think about it so much!

[SPOILER ALERT]

I think about Na Hee Do (badly) redrawing a page of “Full House” and Baek Yi Jin cracking up when he sees it; I think about the first reveal of Yu Rim as a Russian fencer.

I think about Hee Do believing her mother sold her wedding ring and holding it against her for so long, and them eventually visiting her father’s grave together for the first time.

I think about Seung Wan standing up to her teacher for the sake of her friend, about her mother supporting her dropping out of high school for it.

I think about Hee Do and Yu Rim being the rare female rivals in dramas that are allowed to build up a close friendship from there, starting with catching loaches at their eventual mutual friend’s house.

I think about Yi Jin violently dodging Hee Do when he thinks she’s about to kiss him, and about how hurt she is when he seems to repulsed by the idea.

I think of the Beach Episode, and how brightly the young characters shone…and about how much it hurt when they were torn apart (and sometimes failed to come back together).

[END SPOILERS]

I can’t say why this drama meant so much to me, and it seems almost pointless to scrutinize its plot when the characters themselves…breathe.

I just know this drama blew my mind in the best way from start to (almost) finish, so much that I even spent my lunch breaks glued to my phone screen when I could.

During a year that was pretty rough, that’s all that really matters, right?

(Also it’s soundtrack is AMAZING! Special shoutout for “With” since the main cast sings it and it just gives me all the warm fuzzy feelings 🥺)

2. Under the Queen’s Umbrella (2022)

Honestly, this one snuck up on me.

I was intrigued pretty quickly, admittedly, thanks to my massive soft spot for sageuk and royal women, so I was pretty happy to start watching from the beginning…only to get hooked, and fast.

It became the best part of my weekend, something I looked forward to all week (because I definitely didn’t have any other reason to look forward to the weekend as a high school teacher 😆).

Just…wow.

I’d actually never watched a Kim Hye Soo drama before this, and she definitely impressed with her wide range of emotion as Queen Im.

The plot itself is wonderfully, amazingly, mind-bogglingly tight (impressive, considering the way so many dramas seem to meander), but it’s really the characters that sell it.

How quickly the princes and the concubines all – as individuals and as a collective – intrigued me, and how eager I was to see more of them, alone and together.

I think I most loved seeing Queen Im’s sons share the screen, but Seongnam and Bogeum on their little adventure with their reluctant partnership was easily a close second.

This drama really did have everything…except maybe princesses, but what else can I say? I just can’t criticize it for something so subjective as “hmm needs more princesses” or “wish these princes had little sisters to dote on”!

3. The Red Sleeve (2021)

If it finished airing on January 1st and I didn’t start watching it till 2022, it counts, right? Sure, let’s say it does, just because I think it deserves this spot.

Man, I have so many thoughts and feelings on this drama, and I’ll expound on some of them later, but oof.

If we’re talking about dramas that deliver the feelings throughout, I can’t not include this one.

Like, I will admit it didn’t suck me in right away.

I think I started watching it at a time I might’ve been a little burnt out on sageuk (and I love sageuks!), because after watching the first two episodes back-to-back in one night, I sort of…wandered away from it.

It didn’t take me long to come back!

I can’t even remember what it was that brought me back, only that I decided to keep going on a bit of a whim and oh boy am I ever glad I did, because what a ride this drama was!

Naturally, I do have some quibbles, but overall…gosh, I really can’t complain too much.

I watched this drama shortly after watching The Throne (because I was on a Yoo Ah In kick), and it really lends it an extra gut punch, when you’re at least somewhat familiar with the historical context.

There’s the direness of the relationship between San and his grandfather, and the bittersweet coloring many of San’s interactions and his attitude.

He’s haughty and arrogant and cold, but he cares so, so much (and Junho’s performance was amazing, of course) – which, let’s be real, is a classic but excellent mix for a male lead.

Of course, the power dynamic and imbalance between San and Deok Im greatly colored their romance, but I have to show credit where credit is due:  I almost love the drama more for its refusal to gloss over it and make it rosier than such a relationship would’ve been, realistically, the way other sageuk might (more on that later).

4. Alchemy of Souls (2022)

You know, it’s funny, but fantasy is one of my favorite genres – in books (I’ve read so many fantasy novels!), in manga, in anime and animation, in video games…but generally not in live action productions.

The thing is, the line between “sincere” and “cheesy” is so, so, so thin when it comes to live action fantasy, and more often than not it gets crossed, and I spend more time cringing than appreciating, and that’s not even without getting into lackluster CGI.

It’s one major reason why I struggle to get into xianxia cdramas – I just can’t deal with the flying!

Not so with Alchemy of Souls, as it turns out. It’s just…everything I love about fantasy.

The world immerses you from the beginning, only telling you as much as you need to know at any given time while hinting at something greater than what you see on your screen.

The visual effects are breathtaking, the scenery gorgeous, the costumes lovely (although it did take some getting used to the weird mishmash of modern and traditional hairstyles – looking at you, Park Dang-gu) – if you love the fantasy genre, this is THE quintessential fantasy drama, in my opinion.

(Although…Tale of the Nine-Tailed is also quite good for fantasy, but it’s not a 2022 drama so it doesn’t count.)

But you know, the thing that makes a drama isn’t the visuals, or the effects, or the choreography, but the characters.

After all, isn’t that what draws us to kdramas (as opposed to American ones, maybe) in the first place?

And Alchemy of Souls had some wonderful, memorable characters – from poor suddenly depowered Mu Deok to desperate and deceptively tenacious Jang Uk.

And even if the villains were, well, a bit one-note in their villainy (although I guess eternal youth is a huge temptation for anyone!), the characters more heroically inclined were everything.

I have yet to see how season two shakes out (I’m still only on episode five) but even on its own, season one is fantastic, magical, wonderful – both as an example of the fantasy genre and as a story with characters I care about.

Best Actor

Nam Joo Hyuk from Twenty Five Twenty One

Is my choice of Nam Joo Hyuk in particular motivated by, shall we say, thirst? Perhaps. I mean, look at him!

Twenty Five Twenty One was actually my first introduction to him!

Of course, I went into it more or less blind – although I recognized Kim Tae Ri from Mr. Sunshine and got a nice shock after learning Choi Hyun Wook had been in Racket Boys – so I didn’t know what there was to know about any of the actors! (This is my general strategy though, honestly.)

Acting isn’t something I give a lot of thought to, in actuality.

I don’t watch a movie or drama and think “wow they’re a good actor”; for me it’s more an instinctual thing to pick up on.

If an actor sells a character to me, whether or not I like that character, then that’s that! They are the character, and it’s enough for me to say they performed well.

So of course, I definitely had nothing to complain about Nam Joo Hyuk’s performance in Twenty Five Twenty One, but I could still definitively say after I finished watching, that he did an amazing job, in Baek Yi Jin’s highs and lows, in the happy times and the bad times, in the awkward moments [MINOR SPOILER] (that scene where he and his mother are in an Internet café while he types her sappy messages to his father made me cringe so bad, argh) [END SPOILER] and the smooth ones.

But – but! – it wasn’t long after I watched Twenty Five Twenty One that I gave an older drama a try, namely The Light in Your Eyes. And when I tell you I was stunned – stunned! – to see Baek Yi Jin again, and as the male lead again no less, I mean it!

I actually recognized his voice first, because somehow his is very distinct, and maybe he was styled a little differently in this drama.

Point is, his character in The Light in Your Eyes had some surface-level similarities with his character in Twenty Five Twenty One, namely that they were both poor and struggling and aspiring broadcasters (in one way or another).

But of course, that was where the similarities ended – Nam Joo Hyuk, apparently, is not being typecast, and honestly his darker, broodier, more intense moments in The Light in Your Eyes took my breath away.

Best OTP

Na Hee Do and Baek Yi Jin from Twenty Five Twenty One

Okay, okay, I know what you’re going to say.

[SPOILER ALERT]

“Didn’t they break up?” you may ask. “How are they an OTP if they broke up?”

To which I will reply…I am electing to ignore that ending, because I was not 100% happy with it, and just because they did break up, doesn’t mean it negated everything that came before it!

Although, I guess there is a metaphor in there for dramas and series too, and maybe even for the implacable Hee Do and the resilient Yi Jin too – does a bad (or poorly written in the case of a story) ending negate or diminish everything good that came before it?

To which I answer, well, I don’t think it does, personally, because even if a less than ideal ending taints the goodness that came before, it doesn’t erase them completely, you know?

It might weaken them overall, but did they not still happen? Were they not still worthwhile while they were happening?

[END SPOILER]

But that’s enough philosophy.

I choose Na Hee Do and Baek Yi Jin for my OTP, because of how much they cared about each other from beginning to end.

They started as reluctant friends, strangers who kept bumping into each other, who couldn’t help getting drawn into the other’s problems and caring about their outcomes, even if it sometimes led to disaster [SPOILER] (like Hee Do putting that sign on Yi Jin when he fell asleep outside after a bad job interview hehe). [END SPOILER]

And I think that care, and the way their relationship built into a deep, wonderful friendship is what made it so amazing when they finally crossed the line into romance.

[SPOILER ALERT]

It was also what made it so devastating when they broke up too.

Ugh, so much pain. There was something so sweet and pure about Hee Do’s early pining, and something so nonchalant about Yi Jin’s confession when they’re on that bridge, and everything in between.

The way they support each other through thick and thin, before their careers and Yi Jin’s related baggage gets in the way.

I loved their journey, and them – even if I’m sad it had to end.

[END SPOILER]

Razzie Award

A Business Proposal

Gosh. Wow. Okay. One of the outcomes of watching (and finishing) so few dramas is that as hard as it can be to definitively say “this is the best drama from this year”, it’s also tricky to say “this is the worst drama from this year”.

But I’m going to have to give that award to A Business Proposal.

Here’s the thing. I think I got through about seven episodes before I decided, “You know what? This drama isn’t really for me.”

Which isn’t to say I wasn’t enjoying it, because I was, sometimes!

But Ha Ri’s lie dragged on way longer than I was comfortable with (and characters keeping HUGE secrets from each other makes me so anxious waiting for it to come crashing down).

BUT WAIT! That wasn’t even the dealbreaker for me, no.

[SPOILER ALERT]

The thing that immediately put the drama out in the cold for me was the drunken kiss between Sung Hoon and Young Seo.

So, like, how do I explain this concisely?

I find drunken kisses in media distasteful at best; at worst, they’re a mess, and sure, you can make the argument that this is fiction and not real life, and that I can – and have – enjoyed far more “problematic” tropes in romance (I love a good jealous male love interest, actually).

But a drunken kiss plus sex paired with blackout drunkenness on one party’s part while the other is sober? Um? …what? No, no, nope. This is not what I signed up for.

And you know what? I actually remember thinking, when I got to the part where Young Seo drunkenly kissed a very sober Sung Hoon, that maybe he would gently nudge her away!

And when she woke up in bed after blacking out, I thought hey, maybe it’ll explain it as something other than what it seemed!

After all, isn’t part of the fun of dramas and tropes in the subversion of expectations?

The obvious – the revolting (for me; your opinion may differ, of course) – would be that Young Seo and Sung Hoon hooked up, even though Young Seo was blackout drunk to the point she doesn’t remember anything.

Maybe, instead, they’ll go the “actually Sung Hoon knew Young Seo was drunk and decided to help her back to her apartment, because that would be the nice gentlemanly thing to do, and they could talk about her kissing him after she sobered up”.

But nope. They didn’t do that, even though it would’ve been so good.

It could’ve been great; they could’ve dived the sticky issue of consent in this kind of situation by making Sung Hoon into a hero (darn the bar is SO low), and THEN they could’ve kissed again and hooked up 100% sober (and not waste that admittedly very hot “takes off glasses before kissing more” bit).

[END SPOILER]

I thought I was over this, but I’m inconsolable now (all for a drama that I wasn’t even wild about in the first place).

Worst Drama with some Redeemable Qualities

Love Is for Suckers

I guess this could be a second Razzie, but in the end there were lots of things I liked about Love Is for Suckers. Just…not all the things I was maybe supposed to like.

Also, let the record show this is the first drama I’ve had the legendary dreaded Second Lead Syndrome for a second female lead.

So like, it started a little rough, right?

But then Jae Hoon cleaned up so well by the end of the first episode, and looked like he was about to sweep Yeo Reum off her feet right in front of the dastardly debonair [insert other less appropriate word that starts with a “d” here] Chef John Jang.

And maybe he was! And maybe he could’ve! But then…where did all the leads’ shared screen time go?

I think KFG said a lot of what I was thinking in her review of the series, so I probably don’t need to go into it.

BUT the point is, that from the beginning, Jae Hoon and Ji Yeon had very good chemistry. For the record, so did Jae Hoon and Yeo Reum! Of course they did! And I definitely shipped them…at first.

[SPOILER ALERT]

And then Yeo Reum didn’t have the time needed to process her break-up with her almost-husband (another d-word, if you know what I mean) before Jae Hoon put the moves on her?

After saying he’d give her distance? Why are you going back on your word just because you’re frustrated? Why is Yeo Reum betraying his private place to a TV crew? Why, why, why?

(And using other characters’ mental health issues as vehicles for the leads to show concern for each other? Also, Jang Tae Mi has bulimia (which is an anxiety disorder!) and it’s used as some…shallow juxtaposition and a means to criticize her? Ew. Gross.)

It’s funny, because at some point I…kind of realized, that if the show wanted to come around to the premise sort of promised by its title where our leads are concerned, they could’ve done the unthinkable (as far as dramas are concerned):

  • Use the “Kingdom of Love” set as an avenue for (1) Yeo Reum to decide it’s okay to be single, and maybe she doesn’t need to be married to have a fulfilling life and (2) Jae Hoon to get over his longstanding feelings for Yeo Reum and maybe, possibly, fall for someone else instead (and carefully of course so that Ji Yeon doesn’t feel like a rebound relationship for him).
  • I don’t know, let the two leads go for a contract marriage.

Admittedly I’ve thought about this one less than the first, and I’m not sure how it would fit with the reality series premise, BUT it fits with the “love is for suckers” idea.

After all, if love is for suckers, why not just settle down with and marry your long-time best friend? Why must you be in love with someone before you marry them? (And then they fall in love/affirm their love. Of course.)

Anyway, that’s all about where the show failed in my eyes, so what redeemed it for me? Well, that’s a very easy question to answer:

  • Kang Chae Ri – letting all her layers unravel, while she didn’t quite grow from her deep-seated issues, made her better rounded than just a jerk who exploits her cast for ratings
  • Han Ji Yeon – to reiterate, she gave me big Second Lead Syndrome; she deserved better than she got, and better than Jae Hoon’s fake sincerity when the cameras were rolling; how cruel, to be on the receiving end of a line like “starting today, I’ll like you more” 😭
  • Park Ji Wan and John Jang – I loved Ji Wan and wanted to protect her (because I worried she’d end up hurt or be the butt of jokes, as a wallflower that wasn’t stick-thin/conventionally attractive), but liking John Jang was more of a slow burn.

The way he softens up and grows…honestly, he and Ji Wan probably had the best character growth of the whole cast, both as individuals and in their relationship, and that’s very impressive and amazing for how little screen time they had apart or together

[END SPOILER]

Best “Okay” Drama

Sh**ting Stars

That’s probably an oxymoron, isn’t it? Best okay drama? What does that even mean?

Well, it’s just a drama that didn’t exactly blow my mind – and might have some glaring flaws! – that I still enjoyed and that I’d still like to point out, and that’s Sh**ting Stars.

It’s a rom com, and it’s a workplace rom com, and those in particular I don’t always gel with, but from the beginning it drew me in.

Maybe it was the asterisks in the title that got my attention (maybe I spend too much time around teenagers?), but the drama managed to keep my attention, and given my poor track record of finishing dramas, I’d say that’s a very good thing anyway.

The romance between an actor and the PR director at his talent agency was sweet, as well as the other romances between the rest of the ensemble cast (although it did fall into a silly pet peeve I have of all characters getting paired off).

I did grit my teeth through some unpleasantness – metaphorical pulling on pigtails? “Africa”? Voluntourism? White saviorism? In my drama?

It’s (unfortunately) more likely than you think! – and some late-stretch Melodrama, but for the most part? I think back on this drama fondly!

(And sometimes I enjoyed the side romances and side characters better than the leads and their romance…such is the nature of the beast, and hey, is that not the great thing about a strong ensemble cast too?)

Best Friendships + Ensemble

Twenty Five Twenty One

So far, Twenty Five Twenty One seems to be dominating my year in dramas, doesn’t it? In my defense, I’ve only finished ten 2022 dramas, so is it any wonder?

Also it was just that good and memorable of a drama, so oh well!

I’m sticking with it, and I will say one of my absolute favorite things about it were the friendships and ensemble, from Na Hee Do and her rivals-to-besties journey with Go Yu Rim, to the whole cabal of four high school third years plus a reluctant Baek Yi Jin.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Catching loaches together? Check. Standing up to bullying teachers? Check. Online pen pals with your worst rival? Check.

The “beach episode” that seems filler at first blush but shows its place and deepens their friendships? Check, check.

Stealing a parent’s car and suffering a parking fiasco with your three best friends? Oh, absolutely, check.

[END SPOILERS]

Just…together, these five were everything, and they lit up my screen.

Best Short and Sweet Drama

Fanletter, Please

I watched this one about a month ago when I was on winter break and let me just say, if you’re craving something sweet and simple and need that quick fix, Fanletter, Please is SUCH a good drama to get that hit, that rush, that cute.

Also, I just personally have a soft spot for older, more mature leads – and one thing that’s nice about this drama is that, because it’s so short, it has no time to waste, and it moves along quite fast.

[SPOILER ALERT]

I was admittedly taken aback by the male lead’s daughter having cancer – my preference to go into dramas relatively blind backfired – but rest assured this is a drama with a happy ending, and by the end you’re content to know her father is no longer single and she may have the best (step)mother possible. 🥺

[END SPOILER]

Best Drama I Wouldn’t Recommend to a Drama Noob

The Red Sleeve

Ohhhh my God. This drama…sort of snuck up on me?

I saw some buzz around it while it was still early in its airing and sort of made a mental note to check it out later, as I still had some complete dramas I wanted to work my way through.

Then early in 2022 I watched the first two episodes back to back on a whim and…wandered away from it.

Then I returned and essentially binge watched the rest of it. So it goes.

It really is a wonderful drama. I loved so much of it BUT.

[SPOILER ALERT]

BUT the Head Court Lady feels like a Marvel villain in the sense of her having…understandable motives about the injustice faced by those with her status at the hands of the powerful (minus the whole resenting King Yeongjo for not choosing her, maybe) but ultimately being ineffectual, and the status quo remaining.

BUT – and this is why this sort of deserves its own category – I probably wouldn’t recommend The Red Sleeve to someone who’s never watched a kdrama or is only a casual watcher and/or consumer of romance, because, well.

WELL! The Red Sleeve does what a lot of sageuks with a royal male lead tend to avoid:  it doesn’t shy away from the extreme power imbalance inherent in a relationship between the king and a court maid.

So yes, it does serve up some amazing romance and swoony, heart-fluttering moments between our leads, but there are Caveats!

And those caveats make the story more than worth telling, but also unconventional.

And if you’re like what I deem a “casual” watcher of kdrama (or any kind of romance, maybe), you might be caught off-guard by the rather “unhealthy” power imbalance between San and Deok Im, and how San isn’t (and can’t be) even monogamous with her, the love of his life.

It really does strike me, thinking back on it, how such a huge crux of the drama – the one that fueled so much of Deok Im’s hesitation in accepting San – is simply that she would be his but he could never be hers in the same way, whether you look at it as “well of course, he’s the king and he belongs to his people” or “well of course, he has a queen and women being thrust at him for political reasons” (or both).

And I think it’s an interesting statement to make – and that the drama was making – that San (or King Jeongjo) was a “good” king, but maybe not the best lover to a woman he said was the love of his life.

Sure, I think, you can also comment that were he a worse man he could’ve forced or coerced her into accepting him sooner (as I understand it historically speaking Consort Sung didn’t become his concubine till they were both in their thirties) but in the end, he was the king, and he had the power to pressure her, and even if she loved him and wanted to be with him, she felt that enormous pressure to accept him in the end.

[END SPOILER]

And that is all what makes this drama so worthwhile and thought-provoking between all the romantic moments.

Best 2022 Drama I’m Still “Currently” Watching

Reborn Rich

I have…quite a few 2022 dramas I’m still working on, and even more I’m interested in but haven’t started, but I’ll stick Reborn Rich in this category because it’s the most gripping of them all.

As of writing this I’m only on Episode 7, but man can it be engrossing.

Before I let another drama distract me (I was craving romance and that is one thing Reborn Rich does not have going for it), I binged the first chunk of episodes.

I did, of course, have some quibbles (Episode 2 had the laziest Arabic I’ve ever seen in my life; also an Arab and likely Muslim man drinking alcohol in public? Again, lazy) but I’ve overall enjoyed what I’ve watched so far and am looking forward to discovering more!

Also Reborn Rich definitely confirms my suspicion that I love a good drama nostalgic for the ‘90s. All the gratuitous images of ‘90s tech tickles me so much. 😂

~Reem

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Elaine
Elaine
6 days ago

Hello Reem! Wonderful to get to know you through your post, even more so when we watched and enjoyed many of the same dramas! Really agree with all the special moments you mentioned in 25 21, and I think you really captured the essence of the conflict and poignance of The Red Sleeve’s OTP, particularly

Red Sleeve somewhat spoiler
simply that she would be his but he could never be hers in the same way, and how he could not be monogamous to her =( =(

Thanks also for calling out the drunk kiss scene in A Business Proposal, definitely consent was not possible in that situation. I knew I’d forgotten something in my year-end post!

Hope to interact more with you either here or on Patreon!

Ele Nash
11 days ago

Hello, Reem! Ah, I knew @JJ would mention Nam Joo Hyuk in Bride of Habek 😉 It is well worth watching! And, while I really enjoyed A Business Proposal for the OTP and humour, I totally agree about *that* scene and went through those exact same thoughts as you. As a non-drinker, I always really dislike the way drunkeness is used as an ‘excuse’ to kiss in shows – and this took it to the extreme. Yeah, sure, it happens in real life all the time, but not sure that should be presented as harmless or a way in to a successful relationship, especially when only one is drunk… I have your back, Reem! Ignore anyone who thinks that’s being fussy. It isn’t. xx

Elaine
Elaine
6 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

I too had conveniently wiped the scene from my memory, but I was definitely as bothered as you Reem. Exactly same thought process, when she woke up, or when Sung Hoon caught up with her to clarify, I thought it would be to say that they *didn’t* sleep together after all. But yucks they did when she was fall-down drunk? Not good. Thanks for calling it out!!

JJ
JJ
4 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

@Ele – YES!!! Am I sooo transparent that you knew I would talk about Bride of Habek?!?! 😂😂😂😂 Was listening to the OST this week, too 🥰 Its still one of my favorites 🥰🥰🥰🥰

JJ
JJ
11 days ago

Reem – I forgot to say I enjoyed an easy binge of Sh**ting Stars!

I never managed to press play for Love is for Suckers, so I guess thats a good thing ?!

And I will wait when I need that perfect quick binge and watch Fanletter, Please

🙂

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
11 days ago
Reply to  JJ

@JJ – I managed to squeeze in Fanletter, Please last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. That took me up to 799 dramas 😊

JJ
JJ
11 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

– Ohhhhh, so exciting you are almost at 800! Dont get too comfortable as I am rounding the bend at over 200 now 🙂

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
11 days ago
Reply to  JJ

@JJ – Jealousy Incarnate was No. 200 for me.

JJ
JJ
11 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

– “Jealous Much” 😂

Ill get back to you on the actual number because I have to filter out numerous rewatches, etc. I only have 3 official dropped Shows…..

Again, dont get too comfortable. Never underestimate the power of a “JJ Binge” 🦄

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
11 days ago
Reply to  JJ

@JJ – sounds good to me – power binge away 😉

anonymous
anonymous
11 days ago

God reading this….
Complaining about that scene in Business Proposal……
Picking the most generic shows…..

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
11 days ago
Reply to  anonymous

Being the agent provocateur isn’t perhaps the soundest strategy to employ, anonymous.

That aside, Reem had provided a good slice of the drama universe. As for Business Proposal, that scene wasn’t really needed, but I guess they tried to keep it in line with the original story.

JJ
JJ
11 days ago
Reply to  anonymous

@anyonymous – Reaper we all know its you. Can you just please stop ?

j3ffc
j3ffc
11 days ago

Wonderful post, Reem! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I am totally with you as a low-volume drama enthusiast!

I also admired 25/21 and totally agree with your take

Spoilers for 25/21 and Casablanca (the movie)
that the value of an OTP does not depend on how long they stay together. It’s the meaning that they bring to each other lives while they are together that matters. Some of the best romantic relationships of all time ended with an indisputable OTP apart. Casablanca anybody?

You are also on point wrt to the inappropriate kiss in Business Proposal. And, while I didn’t see “Love is for Suckers, I admired your drama repair work in your critique.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for fighting the good fight in the classroom! See you around these parts in the ‘23.

Leslie
Leslie
12 days ago

@Reem – I love your focus on sageuks. They’re an acquired taste for many, but it sounds as if that was your kdrama draw from the beginning. My second kdrama was Rookie Historian, and I remember being awed by the beautiful costumes and sets, and at the same time feeling as if I’d taken a flight to another planet. It was a little unsettling to me that there was this whole cultural and political history that I’d hardly even imagined existed. It spurred my early research into Korea, and from that many good things flowed.

Loved your categories “Worst Drama with some Redeemable Qualities” and “Best Okay Dramas.” Ain’t that the truth of a bunch of drama watching? 😂

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
12 days ago

This a very detailed and insightful review! I am always happy to meet another sageuks fan!

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
13 days ago

Welcome and a fabulous introduction into what has captured you as a kdrama watcher, Reem.

You seemed to have landed on some of the big name dramas or those that have generated a lot of interest since you started your watch, and articulated the points of interest in a very balanced and considered way.

I will certainly take a look at Fanletter, Please.

I generally steer away from the high school dramas myself, now. I don’t mind when I’m watching a show and there are flashbacks to the high school years. However, when it comes to flashbacks, I prefer the older style dramas that would play out the younger years first and then move into the more mature phases, instead of always going backwards and forwards.

So, here is to a good viewing Year for you in 2023. As Trent and phl1rdx have mentioned below, Crash Course in Romance may just be worth a look. I liked the first episode, but I thought the second episode nailed it 😊

uyen
13 days ago

What a wonderful post, Reem!! I love your thoughtful reflections on the shows. Twenty Five, Twenty One had some really great moments with the crew, like the beach scene you mentioned, and the deep friendships. I also really enjoyed Queen’s Umbrella and loved the characters in Alchemy of Souls.

I never quite got into Strong Woman Do Bong Soon or Crash Landing On You, but I’ve been meaning to try CLOY again sometime. Queen for Seven Days is on my list, but I’m steeling myself for the story so haven’t quite jumped into it.

Ugh, your thoughts bring me back to The Red Sleeve and the way I loved it and raged over it. I really like what you wrote, about one of the themes being “simply that she would be his but he could never be hers in the same way” — yes. I did the opposite of you and watched The Throne right after this one and that Yeongjo and Sado relationship wrecked me in both.

I did enjoy Business Proposal, but I hear you on the consent (or lack of) consent scene.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
13 days ago

Hi Reem – Along with the others, I have much respect for you being a HS math teacher. I hated math and still do, and I find people that do it easily to be somewhat magical. BTW – you may want to watch Crash Course in Romance which is about a super star math teacher.
Very nice write up. I have not seen a lot of those you listed. I am so glad that you enjoyed them! I did see Reborn Rich. Now Reem, I am going to have to go back and watch E2 to look for those incidents you mention. I love details like this!

You also say that you like Manga. There are a ton of Japanese dramas based on mangas. Some are a little suspect and some are great. Do you have a favorite manga? I would really be interested to know which mangas have impressed you.

Great job on this post Reem!

Trent
13 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

phl1rxd — good call on Crash Course in Romance! I was actually considering recommending that to Reem, it seems like something she would probably like. Somewhat older leads, good writing so far, great actors…looking very promising after just two episodes.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
13 days ago
Reply to  Trent

Trent – I am really enjoying it. Love the FL. I will say that I pay attention to all the mathmatical formulas on the board and I wonder if the are legit.

anonymous
anonymous
11 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I really don’t get how people like the FL i Crash Course in Romance

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  anonymous

I loved her – what a strong, independent, yet caring human being. She just takes care of business.

anonymous
anonymous
11 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Thats how you see it? okay. What I saw was intrusive, jumping to conclusion, self righteous, rude and the type of woman no normal man would fancy

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
11 days ago
Reply to  anonymous

Reminds me a lot of my wife, actually. Phl has it spot on.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Sean – what a nice compliment for Lovely L!

JJ
JJ
13 days ago

Welcome Reem! So good to have you sharing your 2022 reviews on the main blog!

As Trent said, respect for being High School teacher. Double respect for Math!

So very fun about your grandparents telling you about Kdramas and Turkish dramas being dubbed in Arabic. I actually watched several Turkish dramas before landing in Kdramaland : )

I was a total holdout on 25 21, then the infectious joy Kun had for the Show reeled me and I was mess by the end. Whenever I think of that Show its always in conjunction with Kun’s Joy for the Show especially the water fountain at the school scene 🙂

I fell for Nam Joo Hyuk in Bride of Habek which I have discussed many times around here. Have you seen that one, yet? Mixture of Modern and Fantasy 🙂

YES! A fellow Alchemy Fan. Im still in a funk thats its over. And I COMPLETELY agree with your commentary on the “villains”…

Ah Red Sleeve…what more to say? Glad that made your list 🙂

Oh thats intense about Business Proposal as I am one of the few who did not jump into the Show. I heard about that questionable kiss and scene. I am glad you addressed the issue!

I love the new categories you put in your review! And I agree Red Sleeve is not for the newbie at all.

Hope we hear more from you over on Patreon 🙂

Trent
13 days ago

Reem — Great introduction, thank you for sharing! High school teacher, respect!

And a great discussion of your 2022 drama journey. Some very worthy and interesting shows you managed to see.

Man, I can’t argue with your take-down of that scene in A Business Proposal; as I recall my reaction to it was kind of, wow, this is pretty hot…um, but, hello? consent issues, not good!

The Red Sleeve was really a cut or two above the standard sageuk, and I absolutely think one of the things that elevated it was its relatively unflinching look at that power differential that you point out. And (for me, at least), Deok-im’s determination to hold on to whatever agency and independence she could within the constraints of her position.

Also, hi5 for another member of Team Ji-yeon! I for sure had Second (F) Lead Syndrome on that show, and would have definitely been on board for your proposed script rewrite to get the ML-2FL together for reals. Ah well….

Hope you have good luck prospecting for some good shows this year.