Missing Nine Episode 2

Missing9ep2.jpg

“Missing Nine” continues to hit all the right notes in the second episode and is absolutely engaging from start to end. Just as it gives more answers, it opens up more questions and we get slowly drawn into the characters’ lives and predicaments.

The stuck-on-a-deserted island premise isn’t new, but the show manages to breathe life into it through its unique narrative style of unfolding the story on the island through the eyes of Bong Hee and situating the story in very modern contexts like the frenzy of social media and Sino-korean relations. While the characters are key to drawing us into the story, it’s a very thematically rich show too, with the second episode looking into themes of identity, hope and truth. I’m also loving the soundtrack thus far, and the OST captures that wistfulness, desolation and beauty of surviving such an ordeal.

In this episode, Bong Hee starts to recall what happens on the island following the crash in a largely chronological manner through an interview with Investigator Oh, who has Hee-Kyung monitoring the situation and feeding him prompts and responses through the earphone. While Bong Hee claims to have forgotten what has happened, she does recap the happenings in relatively rich detail and we learn that from a medical perspective, there’s no reason why she should have forgotten what has happened. In fact, even if she did not have any amnesia, I would imagine someone returning from such an ordeal to have to take quite a long while to piece everything together.

Joon Ho and Bong Hee end up on the same stretch of beach following the crash. While Bong Hee may have been bumbling and awkward in the first episode when handling the media world, she is completely at ease on the island, taking charge immediately by sorting out food and water supplies and portioning it appropriately for her and Joon Oh. Joon Oh on the other hand is not only absolutely useless at survival skills, he has no sense of the gravity of the situation and keeps eating up the food supplies.

However, physical survival is not the main journey as it’s ultimately about the emotional journey and the show explores this deeply as Bong Hee moves back and forth from hope to despair continually throughout the episode. Her survival instinct is certainly drawn from her memories of her mum, who gave her both practical skills and the sheer will to live. While initially subserviant to Joon Oh and complaint to his threats to fire her back in Seoul, she realises that she’s the one in control here when Lee Yeol emerges and informs her that he has seen skeletons of people who have died on this island. It makes her realise that going back to Seoul may be a very distant reality, and in the world of the island, she’s the one who’s ultimately able to survive and whom Joon Oh needs to depend on.

The group gradually grows as shortly after Lee Yeol is discovered, they also find Ji Ah, who then brings them to a cave where they meet a lady who’s been there for a while – So Hee. We learn that she is eventually killed by someone and a man, who claims to be her brother, is likely to be seeking revenge for her. Just as the happenings on the island remain a mystery, the web of relationships in the world where Bong Hee returns to also continues to unravel in intriguing ways.

Nonetheless, in the midst of the good stuff, I did feel that the physical realities of living on the island weren’t fully captured. Bong Hee and Joon Oh’s clothes still seem almost pristine clean, with only minor stains and that’s after several days where they’ve gone to look for food and even set up a good shelter for themselves. There’s no sense of the weather too as they seem to be wearing the same attire all the time, which for Joon Oh is his turtleneck from morning till night. There’s almost no struggle in getting food or buiding a shelter – in fact, it almost seems too smooth. Nonetheless, I’m willing to overlook all the above since the drama does depict the emotional journey very well.

We’re certainly in for a ride and there’s so much to think about and keep you at the edge of your seat in each episode! It’s still early but I can foresee this show doing well in the ratings.

Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim Prequel: Appendix – The Beginning of Everything

This episode is quite oddly placed as a prequel because in some ways, it could also serve as a finale as it ties up some loose ends that the previous episode didn’t cover, like Dr. Nam’s litigation and In Beom’s growth in Doldam – which wasn’t really given proper closure in yesterday’s episode. Nonetheless, in spite of its odd positioning within the series, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the episode, even more so than yesterday’s episode.

I enjoyed it because we went back to the show’s earlier format where it used its patient’s cases to explore very relevant and controversial medical and ethical issues. Master Kim’s first love, Lee Yeong Joo played by Kim Hye Soo, returns to Doldam, not to rekindle her relationship with Master Kim, but to seek his help to operate on a woman who is HIV positive who has pheochromocytoma, thus requiring a laparoscopy. This raises issues about the stigma against HIV positive people and also highlights the medical procedures necessary when a HIV positive person is operated on. Master Kim offers the option to both Dong Joo and In Beom to help. In Beom initially rejects, but steps up to assist when Dong Joo is called away to operate on a patient who is suffering from gunshot wounds. Yeong Joo assists Dong Joo in his surgery and she shares her experiences working with “Doctors Without Borders” (an international humanitarian medical organisation), where sometimes metal detectors, instead of advanced medical equipment, is used to locate bullet fragments. We haven’t had such exploration since the show moved into Chairman Shin’s surgery, so this was certainly welcome.

Separately, we do get lots of interesting backstory, hence I can see why this episode is a prequel. Nonetheless, I do wonder why the show didn’t give us more backstory focusing just on Master Kim, since he is after all the main character and the ending of the previous episode did mention we would find out more about his first love. Actually, I was expecting the entire episode to just focus on Master Kim’s early days as a doctor and his relationship with Yeong Joo. There were many portions I hoped were shown to us, rather than just told to us, like how Master Kim used to hate to go to cafes or restaurants, or even what Dr. Song mentions about how both of them used to quarrel so much.

Kim Hye Soo does a very good job though and she imbues her character of Yeong Joo with the right amount of sentimentality and familiarity with Master Kim. The close relationship they used to share is so tangibly felt and the connection is so real as they talk about previous times, without any sense of resentment but all in good humour and acceptance of what happened.

rdtkprequel4

My favourite moment of connection between them was when Master Kim asked her, “Do you need it?” and she responds, “Can I borrow it”, and he subsequently sits next to her for her to rest her head on his shoulders. It was such a moment of intimacy and understanding, yet played so appropriately as a moment shared between two close friends, not two lovers.

The prequel also provided us with more light-hearted moments of fun between Dong Joo and Seo Jung as they go around Doldam taking selfies, which I felt was a good way of weaving product placement with creating memorable stills like these:

rdtkprequel

rdtkprequel2

I’ve seen quite a few calls for a second season of RDTK and indeed, for most good shows, there will invariably be such demands. However, given the format of RDTK, I’m quite convinced that it can run for at least one more season and still remain strong because of its case-of-the-week format and also because of all the backstories that haven’t been told. In fact, some of the stories we saw, like Dr Nam’s litigation case, or even the brief but very cute first encounter between Nurse Oh and Master Kim, could have been extended into entire episodes on their own. Yeon Hwa and Nurse Park’s storyline also hasn’t been touched on much and given the format of the show, I’m pretty sure they could add one or two doctors to the mix to make things more exciting in the second season.

In closing, I did want to add on to what I previously said about the show’s strengths. Besides its many strengths as a drama series, I was also drawn to this show because I related to it on a very personal level. Master Kim’s idealistic focus on individuals and on saving lives, as opposed to career progression or changing the world, was a good reminder to me too as an educator. In many ways, education resembles medicine in that we diagnose what people need and help them to get better. There can come a time where one becomes too focused on being the “best” teacher, but lose track of just the simplicity of helping each and every student, in any way that you can. For this, I’m thankful to the show for bringing me back to the core of my business, and for creating an inspiring figure in Master Kim to carry that message so convincingly through his life and actions!

Missing Nine Episode 1

Image result for missing nine

Having been a big fan of the American series Lost, this new series by MBC certainly caught my eye and it’s the one I’m most likely to be following after the current slate of dramas end. It does seem like we’re starting 2017 with a few darker series, like Voice and this one, plus the ongoing Solomon’s Perjury.

Summary of key events

Episode 1 moves us promptly into the storyline as we begin with Bong Hee (played by Baek Jin-Hee) appearing in China four months after a private plane, flight HL0079, by Legend Entertainment goes missing. She claims to have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and hence has forgotten everything that has happened in the past four months. However, since the plane crash has been so detrimental to Legend Entertainment and been such a significant event for the public, eyes are on her and everyone wants to find out the truth. The chairwoman of the committee of inquiry, Song Hee Kyung (played by Song Ok-sook), is especially interested and tells Bong Hee upfront that she needs to recover her memories, because the whole nation depends on her.

We then flashback to the very day of the flight, which was coincidentally also Bong Hee’s first day of work as Joon Oh’s (played by Jung Kyung-ho) stylist. She’s bubbly and excited about her first day of work and is fetched by Joon Oh’s manager, Ki Joon (Oh Jung-se), to find him on the beach. On the car journey there, we get filled in on Joon Oh’s fall from grace, where he used to be extremely popular but then immediately lost all his fans after something strange he said after being arrested for a traffic accident. After the accident, the three person band “Dreamer” that he was a part of was disbanded and he’s lost his reputation completely, partly also because of his temperamental nature.

Joon Oh gives Bong Hee an extremely difficult time on her first day, rejecting every single outfit she proposes. She makes several other faux pax, like proposing he wear a pair of sunglasses that’s being endorsed by his rival and Joon Oh decides to fire her. However, after persuasion by Ki Joon, Joon Oh retracts his decision and thus she ends up joining him on the flight – her first ever flight.

While on the flight, we’re introduced to all the other characters briefly, but the main ones we need to note for now are Tae Ho (played by Choi Tae-Joon), who was the bassist in Dreamers, and Lee Yeol (played by Park Chan-yeol), who was the drummer of Dreamers. There is a tense confrontation in the plane between the three of them, as Yeol plays his latest track for President Hwang (president of Legend Entertainment, played by Kim Sang Ho)) and it turns out to be a piece written by their friend, Jae Hyun who committed suicide due to the accident earlier mentioned. Tae Ho tells Joon that Yeol released that single to make Joon Oh feel guilty and we get a flashback to an encounter at a recording studio where Jae Hyun expressed his guilt after the accident, saying he can’t live with it anymore. Jooh Oh flares up at him and tells him to end his life, since he can’t handle it, which is exactly what Jae Hyun does. And almost all the key members who are on the flight are witnesses of his death as he jumps down from the building.

As the three of them are quarrelling, the plane hits some turbulent weather with hailstones assailing them continuously, which destroys the plane engine and ultimately causes the plane to crash, which brings the first episode to an end.

Thoughts

That was a real good start. I have to admit I’m a little biased because I loved the American TV series “Lost” and this drama has a very similar structure to it. Essentially we’re dealing with three ‘levels’ of story-telling in this drama – (1) the present day story which begins when Bong Hee is discovered four months after the plane crash, (2) the four months on the island, and (3) all the characters’ backstory leading up to the plane crash. We get no insight into (2) during the first episode, but we get some of (1) and plenty of (3). I’m pretty sure the balance will shift as we move along, but I really enjoyed what we saw in the present day story as well as the backstory.

While the present day story didn’t present anything new plot-wise (i.e. we already knew before watching the show that Bong Hee was the only survivor), it did a very good job of building the atmosphere of anxiety, uncertainty, and threat towards Bong Hee. We can already sense that she’s in a vulnerable position, since she holds the key to the truth of a catastrophe that had huge amount of media coverage. Having her suffer from PTSD almost seems like too convenient a plot-device, but even her PTSD may be cast in doubt as we’re not sure if she really forgot everything or is using that just as a cover-up. I found the chief investigator rather chilling and scary, as she almost threatens Bong Hee to recover from her PTSD. Of course, the mystery remains too as to whether she really is the only survivor, given that we learn that there have been rumours of sightings of other members of the flight. The whole atmosphere of uncertainty and suspense has loads of potential for meaningful and exciting storytelling already.

While I did wish we got some more insight into what happened on the island, what we saw about Joon Oh’s backstory was interesting enough and given sufficient weight for us to care about what happened with the Dreamers and the accident. What we saw gave us enough to connect with Joon Oh, Tae Oh and Lee Yeol and all the emotional baggage between them. The death of Jae Hyun was a surprisingly powerful moment for me and I could almost empathise and feel for Joon Oh as he looked upon his friend, with such shock and guilt in his eyes. Since Jae Hyun’s death, they have all tried to move on on their own ways, separately, but will now be brought together due to this crash where they will be forced to reconcile their differences in order to survive.

That Bong Hee is the survivor is also interesting because from what we see, she’s the one who seems the least street-smart, having never flown before and completely not understanding how the media world works. Nevertheless, she makes up for her lack of experience with her persistence and willingness to learn, which I guess are good traits to have in a survival situation. She would be the one who adjust the most easily to life on an island given that the rest of those on the plane are used to a life of luxury. Given her ‘outsider’ status to this rest of the 8 on the plane, it’d be most fascinating to see how she eventually emerges as the survivor.

I’m intrigued and can’t wait to see how the show unfolds. With so many different levels of storytelling and a tight group of 9 characters who already have pre-existing relationships (except for Bong Hee), there’s so much potential for quality character-driven storytelling here. I’m in for the ride

Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim Episode 20: The Law of Conservation of Romance

The finale of this show centres around a fist fight between Master Kim and President Do, which leads to important moments for all our protagonists. There are plenty of feel-good, happy moments to go around, some of which I felt could have gone deeper.

rdtkep201

The character whom I feel displays the most growth in this episode is In Beom. His dad tells him to return to Geodae Hospital and also apply all that he has learnt in Doldam. In Beom turns down his dad’s offer, which comes to a surprise to his dad given In Beom’s repeated requests earlier to return. In Beom shares that in Geodae, he had lived under his dad’s shadow as his dad’s name held power. However, going to Doldam, he realised that his dad’s name no longer wielded the same power and he had to learn to rely on his own abilities. He thus decides to stay on in Doldam, so that he can allow his true self to emerge. I was truly proud of In Beom for taking that painful, bold step to walk out of his father’s shadows. It’s yet another blow to President Do, who had earlier already lost Seo Jung and now his son to Master Kim. It did make me wish that the show had more consistently humanised President Do throughout by exploring his motivations, his struggles and even highlighting positive moments – which his relationship with Seo Jung had potential to do – nonetheless, he was largely painted as a villain whose spent almost all his time scheming against Master Kim without a very convincing agenda or trajectory of his own.

Master Kim incurs a wrist injury when a ice sculpture falls on his wrist during the fight. Though we never get to really know how serious his wrist injury is, his wrist injury provides a moment of connection between him and Seo Jung and we finally get to find out what happened when Seo Jung first arrives at Doldam. It’s very overdue, given that I’d be keen to know this ever since episode 3 of the show; nonetheless, it’s a neat way of bringing things full circle and we see so much similarities between her first days at Doldam and Hyun Joo’s bubbly enthusiasm. There isn’t anything significantly new that we learn about Seo Jung, but it’s an affirmation of the growth we’ve seen and Master Kim’s nurturing support throughout.

rdtkep203

The return to Geodae also leads to Seo Jung meeting the nurse whom her finance/ex-boyfriend slept with and we learn that she’s now taking care of a 5 year old son. I sense that the scene was supposed to provide closure to that chapter of her life, but since she does not know that her ex-boyfriend had the affair, it doesn’t quite fulfill its purpose. It might also have tied in more nicely if the show had explored more consistently Seo Jung’s efforts to come to terms with her guilt arising from the accident, but it has largely been dropped for more feel-good moments between her and Master Kim.

Master Kim’s injury also leads to a key moment for Dong Joo as he decides to let Dong Joo handle a whipple procedure to treat a patient who is suffering from pancreatic cancer. This is known to be a complex procedure, requiring great surgical skills as the area around the pancreas is tricky to navigate and surgeons often encounter patients with varying arrangement of ducts and arteries around the pancreas. A brief Google search reveals that Steve Job went through this surgery. While he is recognised as being someone two years junior when in Geodae, back in Doldam, he’s entrusted with surgeries of such complexity, after proving himself repeatedly. Master Kim even promises to be there to guide him along. Doldam is indeed the place where he belongs and while he initially hated being there, it’s undeniable that his growth as a doctor has been exponential because of his time there.

rdtkep202

I was genuinely hoping though for more sweet moments between Dong Joo and Seo Jung, even a meet up between the two of them and his mum. However, it was cute and funny to see them respond to both In Beom and  Yeon Hwa’s confessions and ultimately realising that it didn’t change anything between them.

Finally, of course, we have Master Kim, who as always, takes down President Do with such class and style. His appearance at the press conference completely agitates him and he completely steals the limelight. He brings to light the documents he received from Reporter Oh, regarding the ghost surgery, which unhinges President Do further. Following the scuffle, he even comes to Doldam to kneel and apologise to Chairman Shin, who initially knows nothing, but becomes curious.

RDTKep204.jpg

This leads to a final conversation between President Do and Master Kim, where Master Kim gets to share with President Do his romantic, idealistic worldview where his aim is not to change the world or to earn money, but just to save lives. He believes that many young doctors are willing to do so, and deals yet another blow to President Do by saying that In Beom is one of them.

rdtkep20

As the episode comes to a close, we also learn through comic format, which is a brilliant idea, about Chairman Shin’s first encounter with Master Kim, which also helps us realise why he was so bent on getting Master Kim to operate on him. While Master Kim’s surgical skills are top notch, it is his desperation to fight for his patients’ lives that draws patients to him and makes him truly legendary.

This brings to close one of the most enjoyable medical dramas I’ve watched. I still feel that the show could have afforded to be more focused in its focus on medical cases to allow its characters to shine more, and also to develop Master Kim’s character more fully, especially in terms of his backstory. Nonetheless, the series was often thought-provoking, bringing to light interesting medical and ethical issues, while also making surgery such an alluring and engaging process.

The cast was consistently good, especially Han Suk Kyu and Seo Hyun Jin, and the characters were all well-written, with very realistic journeys of growth where they encountered numerous failures and their successes were not over-played. It was also great to see the dynamics at Doldam gradually evolve to become the dream team as each character experienced their own individual journey of growth. While most shows have a falling in love story and OTP as its main drawing factor, I appreciated that this show was different. While I enjoyed the romance between Dong Joo and Seo Jung, it was really the mentoring relationship between Master Kim and all the other characters that first drew me to the show and continued to be the show’s strong suit.

RDTKep205.jpg

The show certainly knows how to treat its fans well with a prequel episode today that guarantees to tell us about Master Kim’s first love, rather than just another ‘special episode’ which is essentially a cobbling together of previous clips. This seems to be somewhat in service of fans who I had read were earlier disappointed that ‘romantic’ in the title referred to his idealism, rather than romantic love. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to it because I’ve always been interested to know more about Master Kim’s backstory.

The Lonely and Shining Goblin: What next?

After that epic ending for episode 13, my mind is now buzzing with theories on where the show is going to go next. While I’m sure the show is going to surprise us, here are some of my ideas on what may happen next.

1. Given that Wang Yeo has broken up with Kim Sun once again, Eun Tak is the one who breaks the news of Kim Shin’s death to Kim Sun. They both support each other through their pain of having lost a loved one and grow closer.

2. Eun Tak tells Kim Sun that Wang Yeo played an important role in summoning Park Joong Won out of her at a critical moment, which allowed Goblin to kill him. She tells her that Park Joong Won was also targeting her and Wang Yeo’s move also helped to save her life.

3. Kim Sun’s heart softens towards Wang Yeo and she decides that she is willing to give him a second chance, but waits for him to make contact again this time. Unlike the first time where she was unwilling to date him because he had no identity, Wang Yeo now has memories and an identity – which makes him someone easier to relate to.

4. Wang Yeo and Kim Sun slowly start to re-establish their relationship, building it from the start and we get scenes of them at a cafe, introducing themselves to each other once again. This time, Wang Yeo is no longer awkward and fumbling for responses, because he knows who he is, even as that identity causes him guilt. Wang Yeo’s desire to re-establish his relationship with Kim Sun also stems from Kim Shin’s final instructions to him, to protect her from any harm.

5. In the meantime, Wang Yeo use his contacts through his fellow Reapers to find out what happened to Goblin and tries to update Eun Tak of how Goblin is doing. He also meets with the Reaper who was the servant that poisoned him, and tells her that he forgives her for what she did.

6. Eun Tak tries to be strong after Goblin’s death, but it’s too hard for her because of how significant he was in her life. Wang Yeo sees her pain and wonders if it’s better for her if her memories of Goblin were erased, so that she can move on and live without the pain. Even though he risks violating the rules again, he offers her the option of helping her to remove her memories. She really wants to do so, because it’s too painful to remember Goblin and decides to do so. However, at the final moment, just as Wang Yeo starts removing them, she holds him back and decides against it – because she realises that as painful as it is, her memories make her who she is and give her strength to carry on. Her memories give her hope as well, knowing that perhaps someday Kim Shin may appear.

7. Given that Eun Tak is no longer a lost soul and has fulfilled her destiny, death no longer keeps knocking at her door. She’s free now to live a happy, successful life and does well in her career.

8. While all this is going on in the earthly realm, we see Kim Shin in the heavenly realm, talking to both Sam Shin and the deity/ Deok Hwa. He negotiates with them to see Eun Tak once a year as he had promised her. The gods are reluctant, also because as Goblin, he had violated his power many times for his own personal pursuit and tampered with human lives just for the sake of saving Eun Tak. However, Goblin’s resolve to find that door to change the destiny between him and Eun Tak doesn’t change, even as he is in the heavenly realm. He tries to find a way to get himself reincarnated, appealing to the merciful deity based on all the good he has done as well. Sam Shin plays an important role in negotiating for him and finally, Kim Shin is reincarnated in human form and meets Eun Tak when she’s 29 years old.

Besides the key events above, there may also be a reunion between Kim Shin and Eun Tak’s mum in heaven and the young boy whom Goblin helps in episode 13 may eventually come back to help in some way. These are some ideas for now – they may evolve as I continue to think about the show this week. I welcome more thoughts on what’s going to happen next or on my suggestions above!

The Lonely and Shining Goblin Episode 13

Wow – now, that was an epic hour of television!

The entry of the Park Joong-Won has definitely brought much more tension and urgency to the story. I was expecting his presence to last for at least an episode or two more, hence I was surprised that it was brought to a close within this episode and in such a meaningful, poignant and brilliant manner.

After failing to kill Park Joong-Won in the previous episode, Kim Shin recalls what he says about how he can’t be killed with a sword made out of water. It then dawns upon him that the purpose of the sword in him all along was to kill Park Joong-Won. His original plan therefore to delay the pulling of the sword until he finds a door to change the deity’s plan no longer works.

At the very core of Kim Shin’s being is his identity as a loyal warrior – even after 900 years of life, he still remains a warrior, and keeps in mind the instructions given to him both by Wang Yeo’s brother and by Wang Yeo. Unlike earlier episodes where he kept swinging back and forth between whether to pull the sword at all, there is a clarity in him once he realises the sword’s purpose. As much as it pains him, he knows it has to be done. He thus says his final goodbyes, before enacting his final plan to kill Park Joong-Won by bringing Eun Tak to a tall building and asking her to wait there for him and summon him once he calls. This brings us to the most epic, heart-stopping and heart-rending ending sequence of any TV show I’ve watched in a long time.

As Eun Tak waits for Kim Shin, PJW teleports himself there and Eun Tak can no longer see him anymore because the birthmark has completely faded away. He strangles her, but she manages to blow out the lighter just in time to summon Kim Shin.

goblinep132

However, once PJW releases his grasp on Eun Tak, she realises to her greatest horror that PJW’s plan all along was to use her to kill Kim Shin, since she’s the only one who can take out the sword. She desperately pleads Kim Shin to kill her instead, since she was meant to die all along. She’s too late though and PJW manages to possess her and clasps on to the handle of the sword. Just as he’s about to pull the sword, Reaper appears just in the nick of time, and summons Park Joong Won out of Eun Tak by screaming his name.

goblinep133

Eun Tak collapses in Kim Shin’s arm and we almost heave a sigh of relief, but… what happens next just took my breath away as Kim Shin grabs her hand and uses her hand to pull the sword out of himself.

goblinep134

He then swings the sword to deliver the final blow to PJW, which ultimately kills him.

goblin135

This also Kim Shin to his final moments as he informs Wang Yeo of his heroic death and tells Eun Tak that his life was not a curse, but a reward because he met her. He tells her too that he will ask the deities/god to allow him appear once a year, as promised before he finally disappears.

Goblinep131.jpg

There have been many negative comments about Kim Go Eun’s acting, but nobody can deny that she certainly put in a stellar performance in this episode, especially at the final scene. She played such a range of emotions and expressions, from the desperate anxiety when she realised that PJW wanted to use her to kill him, to the fear-inducing, creepy moment of possession and her deeply felt sorrow and completely anguish when Kim Shin disappears. She totally embodied every single emotion and brought them to life.

Gong Yoo was excellent and has always been provided with many moments to shine from the start. However, another character whom I felt had greater opportunity to shine in this episode was Lee Dong Wook who essentially played two characters in the episode and brought such depth to both of them. As Wang Yeo in the Goryeo era, Lee Dong Wook played to perfection the king’s loss of purpose and utter dejection after Kim Sun died, living a life completely devoid of love – so much so that he would willingly drink the tonic, even though he knows it will ultimately cause his death.

goblin136
As Reaper in the modern era, he portrayed such a range of intense emotions so well, from that utter sense of disorientation when coming to grips that he’s Wang Yeo, to the torrent of guilt and pain that overwhelms him when memories of his past life return as a punishment and finally to the sorrow felt when Kim Sun breaks up with him once again. The separation from Kim Sun is made even more bittersweet because she tells him that none of her memories with him were erased, because all of them were happy ones, even if they were difficult and painful ones.

goblin137

The biggest question now with Kim Shin gone is what next? How is the show going to keep us engaged for the next three episodes left?

His early death certainly leaves room for his return, though in what form, it isn’t clear yet. Perhaps he’ll be reincarnated as mortal and then grow old together with Eun Tak, which would certainly be the best ending of all. We know Eun Tak will be strong and go on living a good life, based on what she told Kim Shin when Grandpa died. It almost seems too obvious now that the person who appears to Eun Tak when she’s 29 is Kim Shin, but I’m keen to see how the show makes it interesting.

With both Goblin and PJW gone, it seems like the only area for further exploration now is Reaper and Kim Sun’s relationship. What can Reaper do to make it up to her or to win her back, especially when she realises her brother has died once again? How will Kim Sun respond to the news of her brother’s death and how will that change her life?

In the bigger scheme of things, the death of Goblin opens up a new space for storytelling as we can now go deeper into the world of gods, with Sam Shin and Deok Hwa/deity. Thus far, we’ve only heard Reaper and Goblin talk about them, but have never really seen how they function. It’d be interesting to see them relate to Kim Shin and Reaper and for the rules of the ‘bigger’ world to be shown to us.

Next week will certainly be a great week for Goblin, with 3 episodes shown with a double episode finale. This has truly been one of the richest and most wonderful viewing experiences ever and I’m very sure the ending will be equally epic and brilliant!

Legend of the Blue Sea Episode 17

LOBSep17.jpg

Things really start moving in this episode of Legend of the Blue Sea and our “villains” take very concrete steps ahead, resulting in a tense episode with lots of twists and surprises. It’s a move in the right direction as the upping of intensity was long overdue.

In order to defend herself, Sim Chung decides not just to erase Ma Dae Young’s memories of his evil deeds, but to completely erase all memories, leaving him with no identity at all. Ironically, I enjoyed the scenes with Dae Young more in this episode than in all previous episodes. The sense of loss and disorientation that Dae Young experiences really displayed what we heard in the first episode about the mermaid taking away your soul. It is even more detrimental than taking away your life, because by removing all his memories, she’s essentially left him as an empty shell of a person. Sung Dong Il does a fantastic job in this episode in particular conveying that sense of loss.

As for Seo Hee, the reappearance of Mo-ran, the realisation that Joon Jae’s dad is no longer taking the pills and the handicapping of Dae Young forces her to take things into her own hands. She continues to be the one character who instils fear and all the scenes of her spotting things were amiss with Joon Jae’s dad were so chilling. She decides to poison Joon Jae’s dad, which eventually leads to his death.

Separately, Nam Doo’s schemes become even more evident. I had suspected already that he was eavesdropping on Joon Jae and Sim Chung’s conversation by the pool last episode. Turns out it’s true and he has figured out that Sim Chung is a mermaid and is planning to sell her off for profit. Joon Jae’s decision to leave Sim Chung alone with Nam Doo is so ominous.

The question now is how Chi Hyun fits into all this, especially since we know from the previous episode that Nam Doo and him were working together in the Joseon era. What happened after he entered the house and met Dae Young? Was he there in his dad’s final moments, witnessing his death? Would his dad’s death prompt him to take action against his mum? There seems to be strong hints too that ajusshi will have a big role to play in preventing the tragic fate from repeating. The fact that he is also having flashbacks indicates that he has unfinished business and all the talk about how him waking up is a miracle suggests that this miracle will actually take place. In a strange way, Dae Young’s character is now also left hanging – we were initially led to believe that he has unfinished business too, so how will that be carried out since all of his memories were taken away? Is he even going to have any role to play in the supposed death of Joon Jae and Sim Chung?

As for Sim Chung and Joon Jae, they talk about what she saw through Dae Young’s memories, that Dam Ryung and Sae Wa do not have that happy ending that Joon Jae told her about. However, both of them acknowledge that knowing the sad ending changes nothing – they do not regret coming together and falling in love once again. What is beautiful about their romance though is that both of them had to make active choices in this life to ensure that the romance happened – history repeating itself wasn’t simply about them passively sitting back and just falling in love.

Even though Sim Chung did fall in love for Joon Jae immediately, she did have to swim all the way to Korea to find him, learn a new language and culture, and support Joon Jae through his family issues. For Joon Jae, he had to make the decision to turn away from his life as a conman, in order to become a better person for Sim Chung. There were moments where Sim Chung could have left or run away, but Joon Jae was there to hold her, find her and protect her. They were more than just chess pieces being moved around by the hands of fate, but active agents in creating their own love story in the present day.

The fact that they’ve been actively creating their love story also gives me hope that they’ll exercise that same power to bring it towards a happy ending. After all, the first step towards having a happy ending is being able to envision it and Joon Jae has already done so by rewriting the story of Sae Wa and Dam Ryung. In fact, when he shared that ending with Sim Chung, he could possibly have been looking to the future rather than the past, believing that it was him and Sim Chung who would live a long happy life, have babies and grow old together. He reasserts this vision of the future again when talking to Shi-ah, telling her that both him and Sim Chung will be together for a very long time.

I cannot end this review without mentioning Lee Min Ho. Even though I’ve never quite connected with the family storyline or felt much for his dad, I have to give props to Min Ho for portraying the pain, regret and sorrow so movingly and convincingly in the final scene. With Nam Doo eyeing Sim Chung, he definitely has more pain and struggle coming his way, but such adversity will be his and Sim Chung’s opportunity to prove that they will rewrite the past and create that happy future for themselves.

Naked Fireman – Initial Impressions

What an odd series this is – firstly, it’s only 4 episodes long and ends by next week with a double episode next Wednesday; secondly, there’s virtually no online publicity on it, or at least publicity in English; and thirdly, what a title! With a title like this, people googling the title will certainly end up at very strange sites. I’m also concerned about who I’ll be attracting to my site by blogging about this show.

I only watched this episode because I had some time to kill while waiting for the latest Legend of the Blue Sea episode. The first episode does look promising and with only four episodes to go, the premiere does a good job in setting up a very tightly knit mystery and introducing us to its key characters, their lives and their motivations.

Synopsis

The storyline revolves around Jin-Ah, played by Jung In-Sun, who is trying to find the culprit behind an arson incident that took place in her home 10 years ago when she was 13. Although she was at the scene of the crime, hiding in a cupboard, she’s suffering from amnesia and is attempting to piece together what has happened through hypnosis treatment. Her only clue is her memory of a scar that she saw on the back of the culprit; a scar that she also witnessed in a separate incident when chasing a young thief at her place.

In order to find this man, she hides under the guise of being an artist whose looking for men to pose nude for her – “nude” only on the top half – with some very specific requests. The candidates have to be in their 20s with a burn scar on their back. She offers a high price, $10,000 for 1 week, to entice people to come forward.

This is where our male lead, Chul Soo (played by Lee Joon-Hyuk), comes in. He’s been working hard at his fireman job, but a close friend of his, Kwang Ho, who also happens to be his captain suddenly contracts cancer and requires money for surgery. Chul Sol’s childhood friend, Seong Jin, and his girlfriend, Song-Ja, notify Chul Soo of Jin Ah’s search for a model, telling him that he fits the bill completely. Chul Soo decides to audition, but goes under Seong Jin’s name as he is concerned about being exposed, since he’s a civil servant. In contrast, we learn that Seong Jin is a criminal and has gone to jail before.

During Chul Soo’s first audition, Jin-Ah sees his burn scar and immediately starts to hyperventilate. She immediately suspects that he was the culprit and thus offers him the job so she can find out more. Concurrently, she asks her close friend, Jeong Nam, to find out more about him. Since Chul Soo goes for the audition under Seong Jin’s name, Jeong Nam’s investigation leads him to find out about Seong Jin’s previous crimes.

The episode ends with the first drawing session between Jin-Ah and Chul Soo, which Seong Jin has arranged to take place at his house. Prior to the session, Jin-Ah suddenly recollects that she also saw a weapon used by the arsonist. While Chul Soo is getting her a drink, she tries to find the weapon in a toolbox high above a cupboard. However, she falls and stubs her toe in a screwdriver on the floor. Just as this happens, Jeong Nam calls her to warn her about Chul Soo and Chul Soo walks in to the very suspicious scene.

Thoughts

Given that the show only has 4 episodes, the plot-heavy nature of the first episode was only to be expected, with the premise and mystery being set up rapidly.

I’m already finding the relationship between Chul Soo and Seong Jin to be very interesting and there’s certainly more than meets the eye. There’s an element of unresolved tension as Seong Jin tells Song Ja that Chul Soo betrayed him, so that he could be a good person. Seong Jin also seems too eager to sell this job to Chul Soo, even though he isn’t aware of Chul Soo’s financial needs. The most suspicious part was him getting Chul Soo to take on his name and arranging for the first session between Jin-Ah and Chul Soo to take place at his house. Did he do so to deliberately set Chul Soo up? Nonetheless, it almost seems too obvious that Seong Jin is the arsonist that there must be a twist somewhere.

I found the character of Jin Ah to be very well fleshed out within the first episode. She’s been a recluse after the arson event, with her life driven only by the one purpose to find out the culprit. She doesn’t socialise or date. She keeps pushing herself further during hypnosis sessions so that she can gain greater insight into what happened. The fact that she holds on to the past is even more detrimental because she cannot even remember that past which entraps her. Her line to Jeong Nam about how she would be acting like a 13 year old if she was asked to act her age captures her predicament so well. The fact that her memory of the past is fuzzy and uncertain definitely creates more tension.

Chul Soo, on the other hand, seems a little bit more typical – the brash, macho figure who does not stick to the rules, but does what’s best for the situation even if it offends others. He is a loyal friend, a true brother who will lay his life down for a friend in need. Yet we also learn that he had a dark past and was involved in gangs before becoming a fireman. His camaraderie with Kwang Ho is charming enough and I’m sure it will provide more heartwarming moments in the episodes to come.

Well, given that this series is only 4 episodes, I might just watch it till the end because I really do enjoy such whodunnit shows with mysteries to solve. Interestingly enough, given the short lifespan of this show, it will just add on to the list of shows that are ending within the next 2-3 weeks.

Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo – Finale

WFKBJFinale.jpg

Everyone spends their youthful years. It’s a time more beautiful because we’re immature, and a time that sparkles brightly. We’re not afraid, because we have nothing to lose, and our hearts flutter because we can have anything. A 24 year-old youth – I’m not complete yet, but I’m more than perfect already. – Kim Bok Joo

I came into WFKBJ late, mostly after reading many recommendations of it in dramabeans, with many singing praises of Bok Joo and Joon Hyung and also how cute the show was.

What Bok Joo says above about youth being a ‘time that sparkles brightly’ applies to the show as well – while it wasn’t necessarily the most creative shows out there, it had an undeniable sparkle that charmed you each week, that made you smile and laugh, that kept you coming back each week for more. Indeed, the show did a great job, exploring the beautiful time of life which is youth, with all its pain, angst and challenges, but also with the accompanying joy, exuberance and warmth.

While the show is cute, charming and funny, it’s also very well-plotted and paced. Even after the confession of love between Bok Joo and Joon Hyung came out, the show has never flagged in its pace and keeps bringing their relationships to new areas, to test it but also to draw them closer together. These new areas are not sudden events thrown in out of nowhere, but emerge naturally out of the events that have been unfolded. Since getting together, they have had to handle issues like Bok Joo’s jealousy over Shi Ho and Joon Hyung running away when his mum returns.

The finale takes their relationship to a deeper level as Joon Hyung grows closer to Dae Ho and Bok Joo’s dad, and they work together to keep his surgery a secret from Bok Joo to allow her to focus on her competition. While the jealously plotline seemed a little like a rethread of what happened previously, it was no less meaningful because it is now intensified as she’s far away from Joon Hyung. Joon Hyung’s actions don’t help as well, as he lies and goes all out of the way to distract Bok Joo while Dae Ho and her dad make their way back from the hospital. Nonetheless, we also see growth for Bok Joo – when coping with her jealously with Shi Ho, she hid it and refused to say anything to Joon Hyung; whereas in this instance, she’s so open in expressing her anger and frustration.

WFKJBFinale3.jpg

Joon Hyung continue to comes off well as he chooses not to reveal the truth to her, even at the expense of her misunderstanding him, because he wants to put her and her family’s needs first. Of course, Bok Joo eventually finds out and I loved how mature her response was – she did not get angry with Dae Ho or her dad for finding out, but instead blames herself for not realising that something was amiss with her dad. She has grown so much from the Bok Joo who allowed her feelings to overwhelm her after winning the championship earlier. She’s now able to compartmentalise and focus on her international competition, channeling her emotions positively instead to drive her towards victory. It certainly helps now too that she has Joon Hyung as her pillar to keep her standing tall and cheer her on and we get plenty of heartwarming, sweet moments between them as Joon Hyung cheers her on

WFKBJFinale2.jpg

Besides Bok Joo and Joon Hyung’s relationship that’s always a joy to watch, there were so many other cute and funny moments in this episode. Loved Tae Kwon, Seon Ok and Nan Hee’s new trio and how they tailed Joon Hyung in such an obvious and cute manner! Seon Ok and Tae Kwon’s budding romance was unbelievably adorable and funny – I especially laughed so much when Nan Hee barged in on their movie date and Seon Ok pushed Tae Kwon away. The scene of them holding hands in the popcorn container was also fun to watch.

Joon Hyung and Dae Ho’s new friendship was so charming and hilarious too! Was so cute to see Dae Ho ask Joon Hyung for two hours, so that he could go dating and the scene with Dae Ho whispering sweet nothings to his girlfriend on the phone while chasing Joon Hyung away just had me laughing non stop.

Besides the fun stuff, there were many other heartwarming moments. Jae Yi’s persistence pays off and both him and Ah Young get a heartfelt scene where he confesses so genuinely that Seoul is so lonely without him and that he wants to always eat with her. There’s no need for grand confessions of love, because his simple desire to eat dinner with her everyday and research new restaurants is touching enough. Shi Ho and Joon Hyung also have a nice moment of friendship as she shares with him about her therapy, though I did hope we also got to see more of what eventually happened with her family. Joon Hyung and Bok Joo’s dad share a beautiful moment, where Joon Hyung confesses to her dad what he likes about her, which ends with both of them smiling at each other.

One might argue that everything is tied together in too neat of a narrative bow with happy endings for everyone, but perhaps that also captures the idealism and hope that the show has been trying to convey. Sometimes all we want is a show that allows us to sit back, relax and appreciate how charming life itself can be, even with all its pains and difficulties. I can foresee myself rewatching this show when I need a perk-me up or a laugh after a long day. Amongst the shows I’m following now, it’s already become the one I rewatch the most frequently – the scene of Bok Joo confessing her liking of Joon Hyung has been replayed more than 10 times without ever losing its magic and sparkle. Kudos to the production team and cast for putting together such a great drama that will definitely be missed!

Legend of the Blue Sea Episode 16

LOBSEp16.jpg

Lots of important things happen in this episode, but the most surprising revelation of all is that Nam Doo and Chi Hyun’s historical parallels in the Joseon era were the ones who killed Dam Ryung’s friend, and by relation, Dam Ryung. This revelation comes as we realise that ajusshi is also experiencing flashbacks while in his comatose state. Why is he also experiencing flashbacks? Does he also have unfinished business?

While it’s a nice twist, I also wished we also got more information about Nam Doo and Chi Hyun’s historical parallels since we are so close to the end already. It was a disappointment that we only saw their faces, but never got to understand more of who they were and their motivations back in the Joseon era. It also makes me wonder why we spent so much time with Lord Yang and Dae Young when they ultimately weren’t the real threat.

This twist does work to a certain extent because I had already suspected that Nam Doo may have a role to play in the possible downfall of Joon Jae and Sim Chung because of how the swimming pool scene played out. Chi Hyun’s turn towards evil came more as a surprise and even in this episode, it’s not so clear where exactly Chi Hyun’s allegiances will eventually lie. Given his realisation now that his dad is Dae Young, would all his hatred still be directed towards Joon Jae? And is that hatred strong enough to prompt him to kill Joon Jae? At this point, I’m still not feeling the sense of threat and danger to both Joon Jae and Sim Chung’s life – shouldn’t the show be building this up more?

Putting aside my general issues with the show’s weak villains, especially Dae Young, I liked the developments we got in this episode.

Joon Jae’s reunion with his mum was well-played. It was nice seeing Joon Jae being the one to comfort his mum and assure her that he had grown up well, which reflected how he had indeed grown up from the young kid who was always cried and needed his mum’s comfort. That cross-cutting of their reunion on the zebra crossing with shots of young Joon Jae and his mum when she was younger was very apt indeed. Besides being sweet and heartwarming, I appreciated that the mother-son was used to bring to surface once again the issue of Joon Jae being a conman, and more importantly to put the pieces together regarding Soo Hee’s past identity.

While I have issues with Dae Young, I have thus far found Soo Hee to be an alright villain, in that she does take action and instils fear. I liked that we got her backstory in this episode which she tells Chi Hyun when he confronts her about Dae Young. Scenes of her past are also portrayed to us when Sim Chung tries to erase Dae Young’s memories. She came from a difficult family background, with fate dealing her a bad hand in life and her being adopted by an abusive father. She learnt how to use her status as someone who was powerless to climb her way up the ladder, because everyone trusted the words of the powerless. Having finally gained stature and wealth, she simply wants Chi Hyun to let things fall in place and face the world without shame. I’m actually looking forward to the showdown between her and Moo-ran (Joon Jae’s mum) because this is one of the better developed conflicts/relationships in the show.

Compared to earlier episodes, we did not get as much time with Joon Jae and Sim Chung in this episode, but what we got was, as always, sweet and fun. Knowing now that Joon Jae can hear her thoughts, she starts to talk to him telepathically, thanking him and asking for kisses. What was even better was seeing Sim Chung take action to help defend Joon Jae, by asking Chi Hyun out so that Joon Jae, Nam Doo and Tae-oh could break into the household. This leads to her also eventually confronting Dae Young and erasing his memories, which makes her realise that Joon Jae lied to her about what happens to Dam Ryung and Sae Wa. Now that Sim Chung is also on the same page about what happened in the past, I’m hoping we can move on from Joon Jae being Sim Chung’s protector, to them also being equals and working together to prevent the same fate from happening.

On a related note, while we know that Joon Jae has never had issues with Sim Chung being a mermaid, it would also be nice for both of them to actually have a conversation about it at some point. Wouldn’t Joon Jae have questions about her mermaid identity and what that means for their future together? The show seems to take it as a non-issue that both of them are from different worlds or different beings.

As a whole, this was a decent episode with the plot moving ahead steadily. With only four episodes left, I’m hoping the show quickly establishes its modern day villains and allows them to do something truly threatening.

[Note: The version I watched was only 97% subbed, which meant that majority of the conversation between Joon Jae and his dad was not subbed. I may add further thoughts once I get to view that conversation.]