Innocent Defendant Episodes 3 & 4

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I’m impressed at how fast this show is moving, with significant reveals in each episode that open up more questions with the latest being that Jun Hyuk was the one who visited their home on the night of Ha Yeon’s birthday. I don’t think Jun Hyuk was involved in the murder of Ji Soo and Ha Yeon (if she’s even dead), but he certainly knows more about what really happened on that night. Yet we also know from Jun Hyuk’s recount of his past encounters with Jeong Woo (if we can even rely on those) that Jeong Woo had confessed once to killing Ji Soo and Ha Yeon. While I’m almost 100% sure he didn’t kill them, why would he confess to it? It’s a fascinating journey where the protagonist isn’t sure of his innocence – he wants to know the truth, not only to defend himself, but also so that he can get his just punishment if he was indeed the one who murdered his wife and child.

It’s also enjoying how the story still remains coherent as we move back and forth in time to earlier times of happiness, to the time of Jeong Woo investigating Seon Ho’s death and then to the time when Jeong Woo first lost his memories. The show is being very creative with its chronology, but still maintaining a good momentum in moving the story ahead. The shifting back and forth in chronology helps to ensure a good balance of tone throughout the episodes and serve to emphasis how far Jeong Woo has fallen.

The direction of the series is stellar as well. I really liked the scene where both Jeong Woo and Chul Shik are in the punishment cells and we are shown both of them, with the wall separating them. There’s a lot of thoughtful crafting of scenes, as the scene after that also shows us Min Ho’s face from behind the window blinds as he questions why Jeong Woo is making an appeal again. As a whole, the show is well-written and well-directed and looks well positioned to be a ratings hit.

I have to say though the whole Min-Ho pretending to be Seon-Ho plotline is starting to become less and less convincing. I find it hard to believe that nobody can tell that he’s not Seon-Ho. In ep3, we see that he has a secret wall in his office with photographs and details of the previous clients of Cham Young, which he uses to prepare for each meeting. However, certainly there would be details that he wouldn’t be aware of? Furthermore, given that we’re led to believe that Min Ho and Seon Ho had very different personalities, wouldn’t anyone have been able to sense it? The only way this storyline can become more convincing is if we have more people realising that he’s actually Min Ho, but then colluding in this lie for reasons of their own. This is the reason why I’m fascinated by the theory that his dad actually knows that he’s not Seon Ho, but is playing along because he cannot afford to lose another son and heir to his inheritance. We certainly get strong hints of that in episode 4 when the dad asks him to joust with Lee Chan Young.

I’m also wondering about the repeated loss of memories, which seems to be taking the amnesia trope to an extreme. I know it’s a common trope in k-dramas, but I have rarely seen it used well. In this case, I really hope that we get a convincing explanation of how this repeated memory loss is happening, most likely due to the prison chief and warden’s arrangements. I can foresee that it won’t be the last time that Jeong Woo loses his memories and he’s likely to lose them at a critical moment in our story when victory is near. Eun Hye would certainly have an important role to play in ensuring he retains his memories.

Nonetheless, this has been an excellent start to the series and I hope it can keep it its wonderful blend of mystery, suspense and excitement!

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Legend of the Blue Sea – Finale

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Legend of The Blue Sea delivers a light-hearted, fun and sweet finale that’s nothing less of what we’ve come to expect of the show.

The show has always done its fun and light-hearted parts well and most of my favourite parts of the show have been its laugh out loud bits. Whether it’s Sim Chung’s awkwardness in adjusting to the world through watching TV dramas, or Joon Jae’s denial of his affection for her, the show has consistently been able to make me smile and laugh. The finale has many of these funny moments too, like Nam Doo in his new profession as he speaks about tax evasion and quotes Benjamin Franklin, Detective Hong becoming part of the trio and drinking beer with them and Sim Chung’s meeting with the mermaid who has come on land.

On the romance end of things, it was never in doubt that Joon Jae and Sim Chung would have a happy ending, even as the show tried to throw in that final obstacle about her having to return to sea to recuperate. I did have a strong suspicion from the start that Joon Jae did not forget Sim Chung, even though she erased his memories, and I was right! It was touching to see that he recorded every single moment of them being together, though the question was why he had to do so in writing? We know from the early part of the series that photographic evidence of her will always remain, so why didn’t he take any photos with her? Wouldn’t there have been any photos from her birthday too?  

Logical issues aside, I appreciated that Joon Jae had to work hard to ensure the memories of Sim Chung were retained, and that the memories didn’t just come flooding back through a random trigger. I also liked how he respected her enough to keep a strong front when she spoke to him through telepathy in front of his friends and family, so as not to expose her identity in front of them. It certainly must not have been easy given that we saw him breaking down already in the car journey back, but his instinct to protect her always comes first, and even after seeing her for the first time in three years, his first priority is to protect her identity. And even after they reunite, they settle down in a home close to the sea, a place where she can be comfortable in, and away from the rest of society, so that she does not have to fear being exposed and they can both live their lives happily ever after while he supports her as a public prosecutor.

Nonetheless, even as the show ends with perfect happiness for our couple, there’s an undeniable feeling that the show could have been so much more. I strongly believe I’m not alone in saying that the mythology of the mermaid was only superficially explored during this series. It was only when Jo Jung-Suk made his cameo that we started to go slightly deeper into the mythology, but we never really got to explore the world that Sim Chung came from. We got hints of it towards the end, but it was never really enough. Furthermore, we never got to explore what it means for a human to fall in love with a mermaid, given that they are both essentially from different worlds. Joon Jae just accepted the fact that Sim Chung was a mermaid without questioning further or even discussing it once. This romance across worlds almost seemed too easy.

Beyond the mythology, the whole connection between past and present wasn’t also fully exploited for its dramatic potential. Granted, we did get some interesting twists towards the end with Nam Doo and Chi Hyun, but part of me also felt like this big reveal came too late and by that point, I had already been so frustrated with Dae Young’s lack of action. There were hints that Dam Ryung and Joon Jae could communicate with each other and help each other when Dam Ryung was also getting visions of the future, but that really wasn’t pushed much further. What I found most problematic was that there really was never any threat to Sim Chung in the modern day storyline, unlike in the Joseon era. Nobody really wanted to get rid of her, except for Dae Young who was largely ineffective. Given that Sim Chung never really was in any danger, it also didn’t feel like their relationship had to go through huge hurdles to get to where it was.

In spite of the above, I still think the show was a worthwhile watch because it was mostly entertaining. Jung Ji Hyun has always been good, but I didn’t think this was her best performance – I felt she performed much better in My Love from the Star, also partly because her character was so much more layered and complex, demanding a larger range of emotions from her than Sim Chung and Sae Wa. However, it’s Lee Min Ho who truly shone in this series and I have to say his performance was really amazing, especially towards the end following his dad’s death. I initially complained that the rest of the characters weren’t interesting, but by the end, I grew to love almost all the characters, which made the show an enjoyable watch. Well, not every show needs to be a classic and I’m glad that this show was one which just allowed me to sit back and relax after a long day.

Innocent Defendant Episodes 1-2

We’re certainly starting 2017 off on a darker note with Voice, Missing Nine and now this series. It’s tough for me because I love shows of such nature, more so than more romance-focused shows that ended off 2016, yet it’s a busier period so I won’t be able to write as much about them. I may thus be exploring more mini-reviews or clustering of episodes together.

Summary of Episodes 1 and 2

The premise of Innocent Defendant is relatively simple. Park Jeong Woo is a prosecutor at Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office. He lives a happy life, with a wife and six year old girl and is successful in his career with a group of supportive colleagues. However, he wakes up one day and finds himself locked up in prison, with completely no recollection of what happened in the past four months. His most recent memory is the night of celebrating his daughter’s birthday. To his shock and horror, he realises he has been accused of killing his wife and daughter. His second trial is coming up and he is currently on death row.

The most recent case that he was investigating prior to his imprisonment involved two brothers who are successors of the Chamyung group. We learn through backstory that the Vice President, Cha Min Ho, is less successful than his brother Seon Ho, who has been made the president. In a very dark sequence, we see a psychotic Min Ho, holding a golf club and beating a woman till she’s unconscious. The investigation led by Jeong Woo leads to him as they manage to find the golf club. Jeong Woo goes to Chamyung group’s office to find Min Ho, but ends up finding Seon Ho instead.

Upon realising his brother is close to getting caught, Seon Ho goes to find Min Ho to ask him to turn himself in. However, Min Ho refuses and makes Seon Ho take the blame for him. He knocks Seon Ho unconscious, then puts his clothes and watch on Seon Ho so that he becomes mistaken from Min Ho, and then he throws him off the building and writes a suicide note. Min Ho thus takes on Seon Ho’s identity and gets off scot-free. However, Jeong Woo is extremely suspicious as he gets to hear Seon Ho’s last words in the hospital before dying, which are “Min Ho ah…”. We do not know exactly what happens but Min Ho certainly has a role to play in framing Jeong Woo.

Besides the core characters of Jeong Woo and Min Ho, we also get introduced to Yeon Hee, who is Seon Ho’s wife. She immediately recognises Min Ho, but is unable to say anything because he also knows the secret about her daughter’s actual father. In the second episode, we meet Eun Hye, a defense lawyer who always loses in court, but is most likely going to become Jeong Woo’s layer in the second trial because nobody else wants to take the cases. And we also meet Joon Hyuk, who is the best friend of Jeong Woo, and a fellow prosecutor who helps Jeong Woo regain his memories by passing him the case files.

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love this kind of drama where we get to participate in the story by formulating theories about what happened through piecing together the little hints that we get. It seems pretty clear that Min Ho had a role to play in framing Jeong Woo, but how is the biggest question.

We keep rewinding to that memory of Jeong Woo’s daughter’s birthday, yet we are also told by Joon Hyuk that Jeong Woo’s memories might not be reliable because of the trauma he has undergone. Could it be that the night of his daughter’s birthday celebration was actually not as beautiful as he imagined? That actually it may have been a confrontation between him and his wife about her supposed affair that we hear about? I’m interested about the little detail we received in episode 1, that the wife bought the cake in the name of Park Bong Goo, and not his name. How about Tae Soo, the man that as in their home before Jeong Woo came back? My speculation right now is that things might not have gone as beautifully on that night of his daughter’s birthday celebration.

I even want to go as far as to say that the scene where Jeong Woo gets an offer from a law firm and then calls his wife, and she says that she loves him because he’s a prosecutor and not for his money, is a false memory. He may have realised she was seeing someone because he had neglected her and the family due to his over commitment to work. We see that he is not aware of his daughter’s age and even what present she likes. My theory now therefore is that he was so traumatised by his wife’s unexpected adultery and what we see in the first episode is a false memory that he created to mask that pain.

Ji Sung is doing an excellent job as Jeong Woo and he brings to life the trauma and loss that Jeong Woo feels in prison, which contrasts so starkly with his confident presence as a prosecutor. There’s such a depth in the portrayal of his pain, disorientation and fall from grace that he’s already such a compelling character.

My hope is that the show also gives us greater insight into Min Ho’s psyche and motivations and not just portray him as a one-sided villain. In his confrontation with Seon Ho, I sensed a little schizophrenia in him, as he moved from vengeful hatred to desperate guilt when asking his brother to help him once again. It was that moment after he hit his brother’s head with the wine bottle, then he just paused, looking at his hands, then asked himself “What have I done?”. It’s almost as if he’s unaware of what he is doing and is couching his murder of his brother in a way that assuages his own guilt by stating that it’s just like how his brother used to take examinations for him and get punished for him. His dad’s completely nonchalant response to his death is indicative of how Min Ho must have been raised and I’ll be glad for us to gain more insights into this.

It’s early in the series, but I have a sense that Seon Ho’s death is not the first, and I feel extremely fearful for Seon Ho’s wife, Yeon Hee. We already see signs of her cracking and being unable to keep up with the farce. She may become instrumental in the second trial and therefore likely to be killed as well. Another person I fear for is Min Ho’s dad – there will certainly be confrontations between them subsequently and I suspect he’ll be killed just as Min Ho continues to walk down the path of darkness.

The first two episodes have done a great job in drawing me into the story and the characters. This is certainly gone to be an intriguing and exciting ride and I foresee this being series dominating the Monday-Tuesday slot.

The Lonely and Shining Goblin Finale

There’s no doubt that this show has been a great success and it delivers a finale that showcases all its strengths – the versatile cast, poetic dialogue, cinematic direction and thematic depth. While I still have issues with the final 3 episodes in the series, and I’ll talk about that after commenting on what I felt were the strong moments in the finale.

Wang Yeo and Sunny’s final farewell

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It seems like the two of them have never had a moment of joy ever since the revelation of their identity, yet every time they meet on the bridge and regardless of the number of times they say goodbye, the pain still feels so raw and real. She has decided to leave this time, because she can’t forgive Wang Yeo as much as she wants to. Yet before she leaves, she wants to see him one last time and even asks him for a hug. Wang Yeo doesn’t resist her decision, even though he really wants to – all he does is nod when she’s speaking and lets her go. Unlike the young king who refused to let Kim Sun make her own decision and forced her to make a choice between him and her brother, Wang Yeo completely respects Sunny’s decision, even to leave him, regardless of how much pain it causes him. His willingness to let her go and to respect her decision shows the depth of his love for her.

Wang Yeo forgiving the servant-girl who served him poison

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This was one of the most meaningful scenes in the episode for me. Wang Yeo shares with the girl that becoming a Reaper is a punishment for having committed suicide. He adds that Reapers have no identity, yet have to live in a home and have to eat food to stay alive, because the ultimate goal is to make them desperate for life and want to live life again. It’s a great life-affirming message and so apt that it comes after Sunny’s departure where he has displayed his greatest act of love in this lifetime.

Kim Shin and Eun Tak’s wedding

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Beyond the fact that the buckwheat field is stunningly beautiful, this scene is also meaningful because the field was exactly where they signed the contract too that Goblin would return during the first snow when Eun Tak summoned him. That contract becomes the very reason why their marriage is possible. It also symbolises them overcoming the fate that has been set for them, that one has to die in order for the other to live. The direction in this scene is top notch – so private, so perfect, so sweet – unfortunately, the perfection of the scene is exactly why I already sensed something would go wrong in no time.

Eun Tak’s death

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Just as their marriage was an act of their will, Eun Tak’s death also comes about due to her decision to save the school children – a spontaneous act of sacrifice that couldn’t have been foreseen by the gods or Kim Shin; an act of sacrifice that only humans can make for themselves.

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Prior to the marriage, we see her telling Wang Yeo that she has made peace with death and has resolved to live each day perfectly, as if it’s her last. She’s completely at peace with what happens when she meets Kim Shin in the tea room and decides not to drink the tea of oblivion, so that she can meet him in her next life.

Sunny’s death

It was also structurally beautiful to see how the end of Wang Yeo’s term as a Reaper coincided with Sunny’s death, thus allowing both of them to walk into the afterlife together and thus be reincarnated at the same time.

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I thought having Kim Shin outside of the window of the tearoom looking in was a beautiful parallel to him walking alongside her in the Goryeo era, while she sat in the sedan on her way to get married to Wang Yeo. The departure of both Reaper and Sunny unfortunately returns Goblin to his alone state again, with completely nobody beside him – the only difference this time is that it’s a choice he has made on his own, rather than a destiny or punishment thrust upon him by the deities.

Now, onto the issues I had with the final 3 episodes…

While I did enjoy the final two episodes more than episode 14, I still question whether the removal of Goblin from the memories of those who knew him, namely Eun Tak, was a good choice dramatically. While it did help to extend the reunion between Goblin and Eun Tak, it also made some parts of episode 14 seem rather draggy and repetitive, especially since we knew that Eun Tak’s memories would definitely return at some point. It might have been even more meaningful to show how Eun Tak decided to move on and live strongly after Goblin had left. Also, Kim Shin and Kim Sun’s reunion seemed far too brief and it would have been nice to see how Kim Sun reacted to the death of her brother, which was largely unexplored in this series.

Also, I felt that the final three episodes was in many ways more style than substance. We had many scenes that deliberately paralleled previously scenes to show structural similarity, but it would have been more meaningful to have actual conversations. For example the scene highlighted above where Kim Shin stands outside the window to see Kim Sun. Is there any reason why he’s standing outside rather than in the tea room to say goodbye – to give Reaper and her a private moment? I understand why Reaper wouldn’t approach Kim Sun, but why didn’t Kim Shin go to find Kim Sun after he knew her memories were still retained?

Finally, and this is on a more personal note, I am not entirely comfortable with the message that the show is ultimately trying to convey. It seems to suggest that we can find hope in the next life for issues that we can’t be resolved in this life, or for happiness that cannot be attained in this life. While the show’s worldview is consistent in that it has established a world where everybody has four lives and happiness is ultimately achieved, it’s not necessarily a very affirming and meaningful message for those watching the show. Why couldn’t Kim Sun work through her unforgiveness and find peace with Reaper in this life? Given that Kim Shin and Eun Tak already got married and been perfectly happy in this life, was it necessary for them to reunite in the next life for them to make peace with Eun Tak’s death in this life?

Overall though, this was production of very high quality that truly deserves the record-breaking ratings it received. While I felt it faltered a lot towards the end, I still regard this series as one of the most ambitious, truly epic stories ever told – one that spans across time periods and across worlds, yet never losing sight of its emotional core and being able to deliver some of the most beautiful, moving, and breathtaking scenes I’ve ever seen in Korean dramas. It’s certainly a series that will not be forgotten in a long time and I can foresee it sweeping numerous awards over the year.

The Lonely and Shining Goblin Episode 15

I appreciated this episode much more because I’m getting a clearer sense of where the series is heading in this final stretch. It is, and has always been, about our characters exercising their will to free themselves from the control of deities and the fates determined for them.

Watching this episode I was reminded of Shin and Reaper’s encounter of the man who barged into the tearoom just to use the toilet – which prompted Shin to realise that the power of the human will was strong, and that he’d keep finding ways to open doors and change the tragic fate between him and Eun Tak. In fact, Park Joong Won’s entry was a detour from the Kim Shin’s bigger journey which was to find a way of growing old together with Eun Tak, the Goblin’s wife.

His simple act of going to Quebec in an earlier episode to buy the necklace for her gains greater significance in this episode, as the shopowner remembers the man who came to buy the necklace for her 10 years ago. We learn that the necklace symbolises “a match made in  heaven, a destiny outside of man’s boundary”. In getting Eun Tak that necklace, Kim Shin was already subtly asserting his claim on this relationship as something ordained by Heaven, rather than something that Heaven wants to tear apart.

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This also ties back in to Kim Shin’s decision in the previous episode to stay in the space between life and afterlife, where there is no god – so that he can be both the rain and the snow, and fulfil his promise to Eun Tak. Although this decision is painful and torturous, and ultimately also means he’ll not have God watching over him, at least Kim Shin has the freedom to decide to be with Eun Tak.

Eun Tak certainly also wasn’t a passive figure in this destiny as well, because she also quickly scribbled down notes in her own notebook about Kim Shin before her memories of him were erased. These notes served as useful triggers that slowly helped her to remember who he is.

One has to wonder what the deity was thinking about he said he was being kind by removing the memories of Kim Shin, because we clearly see that Eun Tak has suffered because she would cry uncontrollably whenever it rains. She’s suffered psychologically, so much so that she’s sought medical help. Even when Kim Shin finally appears and they have plenty of happy moments, the trauma and pain of losing him still remains raw, and she can’t believe it’s true – she wakes up from her sleep, trembling in fear that this joyful time with him is merely a dream, asking him to appear within less than 3 seconds. While Eun Tak may be successful in her career over the 9 years, we get hints that her mental state may have been rather unhinged, because while the memories of Kim Shin are gone, the emotional experience has left an unremovable mark on her – a mark that even the deities cannot remove.

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At the end of the episode, when Kim Shin asks her to be his bride and she agrees, it is a mark of triumph for them. Previously, the identity of Goblin’s bride was thrust upon Eun Tak and both of them had to play by the rules set by the deities, i.e.removing the sword kills Goblin, Eun Tak must remove the sword or she will die. However, they have now set their own rules by creating a binding contract between the two of them. The marriage between them is something they both make a choice to do, rather than something bound by the deities.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Sunny and Reaper who aren’t living such a happy life. It was a great development to see that Sunny hadn’t forgotten anything and still held on to all her memories. I’ve always found her to be a strong character, but this illustrates her strength even more as she’s made to hold back her emotions, even in front of Wang Yeo, when she clearly remembers him – and she knows he remembers too!

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Sunny’s ability to hold on to her memories are due to her headstrong nature and her will to fight against the deities. In a very telling scene with the young boy that Shin saved from bullies in ep13, she displays her complete disdain of the deities/God, calling him a jerk and saying that she has the right to speak ill of him, because of all she’s gone through. She claims the right over her life and her memories, and says that the deity has no right to interfere.

This is not the first time she has held on to memories that were meant to be removed – even when Reaper tried to remove memories of himself from her, she held on to them. Here, the deities attempt to remove the memories of Goblin fails once again, because she’s resolute and refuses to allow the deities’ interference. It’s an interesting twist that while she was the last to find out about Goblin, Reaper and Eun Tak’s identities previously, she’s currently the one who’s identity is the most “hidden” from three of them because they all think she has forgotten them. Even though she doesn’t believe in a deity, Sunny’s hope and faith remains strong as she writes in a letter addressed to Reaper and sent to the radio station that she believes they will find a happy ending together, perhaps in the next life.

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As for our poor Wang Yeo, he continues to suffer in pain and in silence, as a means of repenting for his previous sins. While we do not see him proactively trying to change his fate, unlike the others, his act of staying away from Sunny and not trying to restore her memories of him is also an act of strength, because it goes completely against what he really wants to do.

On the other hand, he is not completely down in the dumps because the deity has been kind and allowed him to retain his memories of his friendship with Goblin, which also allowed them to pick up from where they left off 9 years ago. They continue to be a delight together and I’ve really missed their antics and bantering – the scene where both of them tried to show off to Deok Hwa was truly fun! Goblin bringing Eun Tak back into the house restores the family once again.

Even as lots of good things happen to Eun Tak and Goblin, we know that something bad is on the verge of happening as Eun Tak starts seeing ghosts again and Reaper recalls what he told her about how she will meet a Reaper when she’s 29. Even as I write this entry, I know that my interpretations may be influenced by what happens in the finale, yet I am glad to see how the show’s pulling pieces together from all over to ultimate build towards a grand story about fate, destiny and will power. It’s not necessarily a worldview that I hold personally, but I appreciate the efforts taken by the show to explore this issue in such a deep and compelling manner.

The Lonely and Shining Goblin Episode 14

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I let out an audible groan when we were told that all memories of Kim Shin was erased from everyone and that we moved forward by 9 years. Ahh… We’re back at the typical k-drama trope of memory loss or the “reset” button, and it’s not one I particularly enjoy, especially when we’re so near the end and when the energy had been building up so well till episode 13.

The only real good I can see out of the reset was that after the intensity of the last few weeks, we finally go back to a more light-hearted mood and get to see the bantering between Goblin and Reaper that has been sorely missed. Loved how Reaper teased Goblin about his hair, and then how he pretended to drink from two beer bottles to hide Goblin who hid so poorly behind the sofa, and how Goblin kept opening the door to ask for more money or favours from him. It was certainly fun and provided many laughs.

However, on all other fronts, I felt the show severely suffered from the whole reset, because the energy level seriously dipped. The bigger question now though is what really is at stake for Eun Tak and Kim Shin, now that there’s no longer any sword in him. Why can’t they just date and then live happily ever after? I have to admit I was rather bored seeing Eun Tak slowly put together the pieces and them getting to know each other again. It was also rather predictable that the person Eun Tak saw in Canada would be Kim Shin.

As for Reaper and Sunny – they barely even interacted in this entire episode and we learn that Reaper has kept himself away from her for 9 years, as a punishment for himself. Also, I’m a little confused about the reset – if it involved only removing the memories of Goblin, then why don’t Eun Tak or Sunny remember Reaper? Or was it that he erased his memories from them too? It feels like we’re back at the start of the series again, where Reaper and Sunny’s story took ages to develop.

I’ll keep this review short because I want to reserve my judgement to see how the show brings everything together in its finale tomorrow. I am not entirely hopeful, but I’m prepared to be surprised – in a good way.

Naked Fireman Episode 2

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Synopsis

[Note – this is done purely by memory because I didn’t have time to rewatch the episode, so there may be minor errors, but the key events should be captured.]

We start off where we ended, back in Seong Jin’s room where Jin Ah has fallen down and injured her foot. Chul Soo looks on suspiciously, but doesn’t ask her anything; instead, he treats her injury and offers to bring her to the hospital. She refuses and tries to walk off on her own, but walking down steps in heels proves too difficult and may potentially open the wound. She thus relents and allows him to bring her to the hospital.

In the hospital, she makes up a story about why she fell down, which Chul Soo is unconvinced by but doesn’t probe further, simply teasing her for spending an hour to come up with the story. He then proceeds to ask her whether she’s really going to pay him $10,000 for the posing nude, because the deal just sounds too good. To his surprise, she passes him a cheque for $2,000 as an advance. He’s elated and brimming with joy as she heads back in a taxi.

In the meantime, we see Seong Jin and Song Ja up to suspicious antics, trying to crack open the safe in Jin Ah’s room. Seong Jin has arranged it such that Chul Soo will call him when he’s done with Jin Ah, so that they know when to stop. He takes a long time, but eventually manages to determine the six numbers in the code – once Chul Soo calls, he asks Song Ja to try all 720 combinations to find out which one opens the safe.

We then switch to a scene between Jeong Nam and Jin Ah, where Jeong Nam scolds Jin Ah for even trying to approach Chul Soo, whom he still thinks is Seong Jin. He warns her against doing so, and tells her to hand him over to him, so that he can do a full investigation on him.

Seong Jin then meets up with Chul Soo, who shows him the cheque he received from Jin Ah. Seong Jin is happy for him, but starts talking about the arson incident 10 years ago. Chul Soo seems uncomfortable with him raising it, but Seong Jin goes on, mentioning that it was the day he had to leave town. As they continue talking, Seong Jin mentions that there was something he saw that day, which he didn’t tell Chul Soo. After Chul Soo asks further, Seong Jin tells him he won’t say anymore and the secret will remain with him till he dies. Just then, Jin Ah calls Seong Jin to arrange for the next drawing session. They start talking about Jin Ah, and Chul Soo learns from Seong Jin that Jin Ah has lost her parents from a young age. Chul Soo feels extremely guilty because he had teased her earlier about her parents.

The next day, Chul Soo and Jin Ah have their next session and Chul Soo is evidently interested in Jin Ah. He keeps turning back, wanting to ask her questions. She’s so engaged in drawing him and so deep in thought that she breaks the lead of her pencil. This leads to a conversation between both of them, where she relates an incident where she stabbed someone with a pencil and the person called her a crazy psycho. They complete the session and Jin Ah invites Chul Soo to lunch, to thank him for helping her when her foot was injured.

They go in search for different restaurants, which are either full or have closed down. Along the way, they suddenly run into a man who keeps taunting Jin Ah, telling her to go with him or else he will upload all the photos he has on his phone. Although Jin Ah tells Chul Soo to leave, he senses that she’s in danger and he protects her when the man tries to grab her. Chul Soo asks the guy to pass him his phone, so he can erase the photos, but the guy flees in his car. Chul Soo gives chase, but as he does, his hand brushes against Jin Ah’s hand and her memories of the arson incident come flooding in. She realises he is indeed the boy who was at her house that day, but also recalls now hearing another voice that day.

In the meantime, Chul Soo is catching up on the man, who makes a wrong turn and ends up getting his car over-turned. He’s trapped in his seat belt, and the car is going to explode any time due to a petrol leak. Chul Soo goes to his rescue, and breaks open his window, but is unable to release him as the seat belt remains stuck. Just then, Jin Ah runs up to help him cut the seat belt and both of them carry the man away from the car, just minutes before it explodes. Before leaving the guy, Chul Soo asks him for his phone and starts erasing all the pictures of Jin Ah. He notices that in all the photos, she’s alone and starts asking her if she has friends or if she has ever gone dating. He even asks her if she’s interested to date him. They then go for lunch together before Chul Soo sends her home.

Just moments before Chul Soo and Jin Ah return home, Song Ja has asked Seong Jin over because she has managed to crack the code for the safe. He starts coming in to replace her paintings with fakes, but just as he’s escaping, they see Chul Soo and Jin Ah coming back. They quickly hide in the toilet of her room.

Chul Soo and Jin Ah share a moment of connection as she tries to clean his wound on his face. However, Chul Soo shrugs away awkwardly and asks he needs to go to the loo. In the loo, he sees both Seong Jin and Song Ja and tries to help them escape. In the meantime, Jin Ah calls Jeong Nam and tells him that the culprit cannot be Chul Soo, because she can sense that he’s a good person. Jeong Nam tells her that the criminal records speak for themselves and tells her to slip something expensive in his pocket, so that he can catch her.

The scenes with Jeong Nam get creepier and creepier as we realise that there’s a little girl behind him, holding on to a teddy bear and crying. As he puts down the phone, we see a woman who’s evidently been abused, asking him what he wants her to do. Both the woman and the little girl are crying. Jeong Nam looks angry. He goes towards his kitchen and pulls out the weapon from the arson incident that Jin Ah previously recalled, along with a newspaper article about the incident!

The episode ends with Jin Ah holding her necklace in her hand, deciding whether or not she should put it in his coat pocket, so that he can be arrested.

Thoughts

I’m quite surprised by how quickly I’ve warmed up to the pairing of Chul Soo and Jin Ah. Even though they only just got to know each other in the previous episode, this episode does a good job of drawing them closer by repeatedly putting them in situations where Chul Soo can be that everyday hero. We don’t get any scenes of him firefighting in this episode, but his strength, skills and heroic spirit are such a part of him that it comes through in everything that he does. The attraction between the both of them puts Jin Ah in a very conflicted position – the brushing of their hands makes her realise that he was indeed present during the arson incident, but what she sees and knows of him makes her sense that he cannot be the one who committed the crime. Is she being overly protective of him because of her attraction to him? Is she merely ignoring all that Jeong Nam tells her about Seong Jin’s crimes?

For a series with only 4 episodes, it would be understandable if the romance was slightly under-developed as the main storyline of finding the culprit for the arson and murder is sufficiently meaty. Yet the show has done a good job of developing both the crime and romance storyline in a very seamless manner, yet allowing both storylines to add tension to the other. I have to give credit to both Lee Joon-Hyuk and Jung In-Sun for portraying both characters and their budding romance in such a compelling manner.

I really liked how the episode ended with the revelation of Jeong Nam as the ultimate culprit. It was really a surprise, because his desire for her to stay away from Chul Soo also makes perfect sense. The shift in tone was also very well done as the truth of Jeong Nam’s identity is gradually revealed. It starts with the camera angle which shoots his frenzied, threatening look with such a dark background, and then we gradually see a little girl in the background. As the conversation progresses and Jeong Nam gets angrier, we see the little girl quivering in tears, but sitting still on the chair, holding on to a soft toy. Something is evidently not right as we see the entire house very dimly lit. Finally as the phone is put down, we then see the woman who’s been abused, holding on to her daughter, and the both of them shaking in fear of Jeong Nam. The whole sequence is done with such restraint and style, and puts every conversation between Jeong Nam and her previously in new light.

Then we’ve got Seong Jin, who hasn’t turned away from his criminal ways and has now brought Song Ja along with him too. Yet he evidently still cares for Chul Soo – what is that secret which he doesn’t want to say? Did he see Jeong Nam? Did Jeong Nam frame Seong Jin? Why is Chul Soo so concerned when Jeong Nam tries to raise that incident? With so many questions left unanswered and a well-crafted romance, I’m sure the final two episodes of this very brief series will be a worthwhile and exciting watch!

Legend of the Blue Sea Episode 18: Recap and Thoughts 

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LOBS puts in its best episode yet with an episode full of twists and turns and a resolution to Nam Doo’s story arc that’s satisfying and also tongue-in-cheek.

The episode begins with Chi Hyun’s discovery of his dad’s death, which we did not get to see last week. We learn that he enters the room just as his dad is making the call to Joon Jae and moments before his death. He sees the drink next to his dad’s bed and realises that his dad was poisoned by his mum. He then disposes of the drink, replaces it with a cup of water before calling the police to report his dad’s death.

We then return to the moment where Joon Jae sees his dad being wheeled out, and he looks up and sees Chi Hyun. He immediately responds in anger, blaming him and his mum for what happened to his dad. This is the start of many great performances by Min Ho throughout the episode as his anguish, sorrow, anger, loss, determination all come through so clearly as he lashes out at Chi Hyun. It’s touching to see how the brotherly bond between Detective Hong and Joon Jae have developed as Detective Hong arrives on the scene and becomes an assuring presence to Joon Jae, telling him to tend to his dad while he looks into the crime scene.

We then to a scene at the pool with both Sim Chung and Nam Doo, which is one of my favourite scenes. Nam Doo tries to ask Sim Chung about how she knew that Ma Dae Young’s memories had disappeared and tells her that he’s one who has turned his back on his friends before. Sim Chung looks at him, with a completely lack of fear in her eyes and tells him plainly that if he turns his back on her, she’ll decide what to do with him. Although not spoken, she might know that Nam Doo has recovered his memories, which also means he knows she is capable of removing them again. I love how Sim Chung rises up in this episode and is no longer the vulnerable one needing protection from Joon Jae. Tae Ho breaks in then to inform them of Joon Jae’s dad.

Nam Doo, Tae Ho and Sim Chung arrive at the mortuary to see Joon Jae all broken down and overwhelmed with sorrow. Nam Doo asks Tae Ho to go to the side with him, recognising that it’s Sim Chung whom Joon Jae needs now. It’s a small act, but looking back, I see this as an affirmation of the concern and care between Nam Doo and Joon Jae. Sim Chung goes up to Joon Jae to comfort him and he asks her to remove all the memories between him and his dad because both the good and bad memories hurt so much. This was the moment that really hit me because you could really sense how heart-broken poor Joon Jae was. I’ve had issues with how the show set up and build up Joon Jae’s relationship with his previous family and with dad’s characterisation, but the fallout of his death has been really well done.

Sim Chung tells him that she can’t remove those memories, because the memories are still being held on to by Joon Jae as they are memories of loved ones. It isn’t exactly clear what rules govern the removal of memories thus far, because Sae Wa was previously able to remove memories of herself from Dam Ryung. I do wish this was explored more clearly. Nonetheless, what I really liked about this episode was how Sim Chung’s strengths really came to the forefront, both her physical strength and her ability to remove memories. Loved the reversal of roles in the car later between Joon Jae and Sim Chung as she tells him that she’ll make him happy and protect him.

Soo Hee and Chi Hyun arrive on the scene and Soo Hee gets top marks for her acting abilities, collapsing with grief upon discovering her husband’s death. While she’s lying down resting, Chi Hyun approaches Nam Doo, having found out about him while doing background checks on Joon Jae. He threatens Nam Doo, saying that he can expose his misdeeds any time, and asks Nam Doo to assist him to get rid of Joon Jae. Nam Doo agrees, saying that he’s one who’s willing to put aside his friends when there’s gain for him.

We then move to an encounter between Sim Chung, Joon Jae’s mum and Soo Hee in the washroom, where Sim Chung grabs onto Soo Hee to stop her from slapping Mo Ran and then gets a glimpse of her memories of preparing her poison. She uses this information to help Detective Hong discover a hidden room at the basement at Soo Hee’s house, which then becomes critical information used to bring Soo Hee into prison. Given that this is detention without evidence, she can only be kept for 48 hours and Soo Hee holds out by giving evasive and vague responses.

In the meantime, Chi Hyun has put together a plan with Nam Doo to kidnap Joon Jae and then feign his suicide. Immediately once Soo Hee is released, they get in on the act and bring Joon Jae to a warehouse, where Soo Hee reveals all the crimes that she has done to Joon Jae, thinking that his death is near. Little does she know that it’s all been a ploy with Nam Doo already alerting Detective Hong earlier of the entire plan. Soo Hee’s confession is recorded and she’s finally apprehended. Upon realising his mum has been arrested, Chi Hyun explodes in anger and takes a gun from a police officer to shoot Joon Jae. Sim Chung fulfils what she promised her, and jumps in front of Joon Jae to protect him.

What a fun ride to see Joon Jae and Nam Doo’s skills of deception and disguise to be used for the purpose of justice. Nam Doo’s remarks to Detective Hong and Joon Jae about why everyone thinks he’s the one who would turn on his friends seems to be a cheeky comment at viewers too. Now that I think back, we’ve never really been told during the Joseon era that Nam Doo was the one who killed Dam Ryung’s friend – all we saw was him next to Chi Hyun. However, given the previous scene between Nam Doo and Sim Chung, the assumption that almost everyone jumped too was that Nam Doo would turn on Joon Jae. I would have been alright with the storyline of Nam Doo turning on Joon Jae, which was already a twist in its own right. However, it’s even more satisfying to see Nam Doo pretend to turn on Joon Jae, but then ultimately be on the side of good, helping Joon Jae to capture his mum. In the large scheme of things, it’s also reassuring because it seems like history will not repeat itself – though to be fair, we still aren’t very clear of what exactly what role Nam Doo’s historical parallel had to play in the grand scheme of things.

In fact, the notion of history not repeating itself is also reinforced through Sim Chung’s role in this episode, where she proves herself to be more of a threat and very capable of protecting Joon Jae. I do wish we had seen more of this earlier, because we already had seen her strength in episode 2, but that was conveniently dropped along the way until now. It was great to see her also put her memory-removing capabilities to good use, to tap into Soo Hee’s memories, but to resist from removing them, because that would be letting her off too lightly.

Now, the person who’s notably absent from it all is Dae Young, who we know has lost all his memories, but still remembers the mermaid. It’s pretty obvious that Sim Chung won’t die, so what’s keeping me interested now is how the show will close the loop between past and present on both Joon Jae and Dae Young’s storyline and what exactly Chi Hyun’s role is in the Joseon era, such that he decides to kill Sae Wa and Sim Chung. We also know ajusshi is going to wake up soon, so he’ll definitely have a critical role to play in the last two episodes. Besides Joon Jae and Sim Chung, we also now have Tae Oh and Shi Ah to add to the overall sweetness of the show, and they have certainly grown on me and it would be nice to see them get together!

It is this kind of deft storytelling that I was hoping the show would move into much earlier. There is so much scope for storytelling, not just in the Joseon era, but also in terms of delving into the mythology of the mermaid and Sim Chung’s past. Instead, a lot of the second half was focused on drawing out Joon Jae and Sim Chung’s relationship and milking it for all it was worth. Nonetheless, late is better than never and it’s good to see the show moving at a swifter pace now.

Missing Nine Episode 2

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“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 So Hee. We learn that she is eventually killed by someone and a man, who claims to be her brother but is probably her lover, is 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.

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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:

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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!