This is a truly solid series all round.
While one can argue that the storylines of Jung-Hoo, Young-Shin and Moon-ho intertwine too neatly, the writing of this show is precisely so solid because it melds the stories of three lives and their histories so artfully and meaning. Their backstory centres around a photograph of five individuals and remains largely a mystery that is unveiled bit by bit, to add the right amount of understanding of present day events and emotional weight to our characters’ predicament.
At the mid way point of the series, we’ve had plenty of revelations and our characters have progressed significantly in their relationships but there is still a lot to keep us intrigued and engaged, especially now that Moon-ho has discovered the identity of Healer. The pacing of the series is top notch as it steadily advances the different storylines simultaneously within each episode.
It’s in its character work that the show truly excels too. We have three very fascinating, complex characters who are competent in their own fields, yet also display vulnerabilities arising from their past. The star of the show really is Yoo Ji-tae who plays the role of Moon-ho with such maturity, confidence and subtlety. In his professional role as a reporter, he’s suave, sharp and shrewd, yet when exploring the past, he displays much tender-heartedness and remorse, especially when relating to Myung-hee. His interactions with his brother Moon-Sik are layered and tense, a mixture of contempt, anger and mystery. Clearly Moon-Sik is the “villain” of the show, yet we are also privy to the guilt that entraps him as well as his entanglement with Elder from the past.
Ji Chang Wook and Park Min Young put up very strong performances too. Their romance is cute, quirky, fun to watch and ultimately convincing because they have also been given a lot of quality material to work with. Their romance functions as a natural extension of their own personal search for identity, family and ultimately a place in this world. After watching this show, I realise Ji Chang Wook has really been shortchanged in K2, where he plays an action hero who’s relatively straightforward in terms of characterisation and motivations. In this series, he arguably plays three roles – Bong-So, Healer and Jung Hoo and he switches amongst the roles with such aplomb it’s almost amazing. There are scenes where he switches between Bong-so and Healer “mode” and it’s all done through his eyes and facial expression.
In terms of the romance, we see it developing through the interplay of two sets of interactions between Young-Shin and Bong-So as well as her and Healer. With Bong-So, Young-Shin finds a confidant and someone whom she can just talk for hours with. With Healer, she finds a protector – someone who’s always watching out for her and will put himself in danger for her sake. The dual roles that Jung Hoo takes on also adds such an interesting dimension to their interactions, more so in recent episodes where we see him almost deciding to shed his “Healer” identity for a more public one. I really liked the scene where Bong So brought Young shin to his secret place on top of a building and confessed his feelings for her. His reaction to Young Shin’s rejection of him due to her feelings for Healer points to bigger decisions he needs to make. In that scene, he switches to “Healer” mode when he tells he can live as she wants to. It’s truly to the credit of the show that it can balance such weighty moments with light-hearted fun as the scene ends off with cute bantering between them as Young Shin asks Bong-So when he started liking her. I also liked their recent movie date “together”. While they are seated apart, there’s such connectedness between them and that holding of hands at the last moment was just beautiful. I like that Young shin does not go on a pursuit of Healer’s identity, but plays by his rules and respects his need to keep his identity a secret.
Besides getting all the big pieces done well, the show also handles the so-called smaller areas well. It has a fascinating ensemble of supporting cast, who are sufficiently fleshed out to make you care for them. My favorites have to be Min Ja and Teacher who are so quirky and entertaining to watch. Young-Shin’s father is also hilarious in how protective he is over Young-Shin. Another area would be the music for the series. I often find the music in Korea drama over-bearing and it’s almost as if they are on cue to tell you how you should be feeling in a particular scene. However, for Healer, this is not the case and most of the tunes are subtle enough to gently complement the emotions on screen.
As icing on the cake, watching this series also makes one feel happy and positive. I know that sounds trite, but it’s true! There are many solid dramas out there, but their viewing experience differs – some may be solid because they make you feel a sense of intrigue and suspense (e.g. Signal); others may you feel amazed and blow your mind because of the plot twists (e.g. W Two Worlds). However, for Healer, there’s such as bubbly, lively energy to the series that makes it so likeable and relatable. It’s such a joy to watch this show, which is really a huge plus point. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the series unfolds and from what I’ve seen so far, I’m confident it’s going to be great!