Memories of the Alhambra: Mid-season Summary & Thoughts

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I embarked on this series with high hopes, being a big fan of Song Jae Jung’s dramas. From her shows, I’ve come to expect original concepts executed in intriguing and exciting ways. Her dramas (Nine, Queen In-hyun’s Man, W Two Worlds) have always been about heroes/heroines who move between different timelines or worlds and the complications that arise. Centred on an augmented reality game developed in picturesque Granada, MoTA builds on her previous works.  

Synopsis (Summary of events from Episode 1-11)

Yoo Jin Woo (played by Hyun Bin), CEO of J-One Holdings, receives a phone call one evening from the game developer, Jung Se-Joo, to meet him at Hotel Bonita in Granada regarding the game. He checks into the hotel and meets his sister, Jung Hee-Joo (played by Park Shin Hye). Jin Woo does not manage to meet Se-Joo, but he opens an email sent by Se-Joo with instructions on the game. He starts playing the game using a lens invented by J-One Holdings, which allows one to fight various non-player characters like knights on horses and archers within the world setting, and gets addicted to the thrill of it. With every victory, he gains experience points and levels up, which gives him access to more weapons and abilities.

He realises soon that he is not the only one playing the game. His friend turned business rival, Cha Hyung Seok, is also a player in the game. With any player within the game, one has the option of either becoming an ally or an enemy to them. Once two players become enemies, they can engage in duels and gain experience points by battling and defeating the other player. Jin Woo thus decides to engage in a duel with Hyung Seok and defeats him in the game. He is triumphant and excited about his victory, but that takes a dark and sinister turn when he realises that Hyung Seok does not just die in the game; he is also dead in reality.

And to make things worse, the game seeps into real life as dead Hyung Seok reappears (and keeps reappearing) to engage Jin Woo in duel. Unprepared during Hyung Seok’s first reappearance, Jin Woo loses the duel and gets thrown down six flight of stairs, crippling him permanently. However, his physical infirmity does not compare to the mental breakdown he experiences as Hyung Seok keeps appearing again and again, and he keeps having to kill him again and again. Jin Woo goes to US for a year to receive treatment for his injuries and realises he can overcome Hyung Seok more quickly by levelling up. Nonetheless, Hyung Seok keeps reappearing. While in the US, his loyal ally, Secretary Seo, decides to enter the game too and he becomes a good support to Jin Woo, providing him with an extra pair of hands to defeat Hyung Seok.

What is happening with him and Hyung Seok gives him some clues as to what may have happened with Se-Joo, the inventor. He receives news that the other creators of the game, Marco, has been discovered dead, which suggests then that Se-Joo and Marco were engaged in a fight. However, the fact that Se-Joo’s body has not been found suggests he may still be alive within the game. While he is in the US, his company J-One has acquired the game and developed it further, with versions for Korea, China and other countries. Jin Woo returns quietly to Seoul and gets one of his subordinates within J-One to secretly create a space for him within the game where he can fight the non-player characters and gain experience points. He hopes to gain enough experience points, equal to that of Se Joo (above 90), so that he may have the chance to solve the mystery of what happened to him.

He eventually manages to hit level 90 and receives a quest from the game creator to go to Alhambra in Granada on a quest. He takes Secretary Seo with him on the quest, but things go terribly wrong when they reach Granada and Jin Woo is attacked by terrorists on the train and Secretary Seo, who disembarks the train first, is assaulted by archers and knights on the platform. Jin Woo is unable to save Secretary Seo in time and Secretary Seo dies (cause unknown). Jin Woo embarks on the mission on his own in the Alhambra and he is accosted by zombies, but his Secretary Seo returns as a zombie just like Hyung Seok did, and helps him fend off the zombies. Just as his life is almost depleted from the quest, Hee-Joo’s friend (who works at the Alhambra( comes to his rescue by shining a light, which apparently turns off the game. With the death of Secretary Seo and the failure to find Se-Joo, Jin Woo’s life hits rock bottom and he returns to Seoul to find that he has been removed as the CEO. He also faces the prospect of being jailed as investigations into Hyung Seok’s death are re-opened and he is the prime suspect.

As episode 11 ends, Hee Joo is the only one left supporting him and believing in him, and they finally lock lips and their romantic relationship begins. Jin Woo continues to be determined to complete his quest and find out what happened to Se Joo.


While MoTA has done well ratings wise, it has also had its fair share of criticism, particularly about the weakness of Hee Joo as a character and her involvement in the main plot line of the show. In summarising the plot of the show from Episodes 1-11, it becomes increasingly clear that Hee Joo is really secondary to all that happens, which shouldn’t be the case given that it’s her brother who invented the game and went missing. There is so much scope for her to be written into the main plot line of the show and yet her role has been restricted to mainly being a support (and not even very actively so) to Jin Woo.

By relation, it also means their romance has not been well developed. The weakness of the romance does not detract from my enjoyment of the show as much as I’ve come to expect that Song Jae Jung shows don’t excel in this area. However this has to be the weakest romance thus far and I found the kiss in episode 11 rather abrupt, though it was definitely moving and won the hearts of many fans. It’s the top trending video on Naver currently and I’m sure it’s going to go up even more.

Nonetheless, as a story about Jin Woo as a fallen soldier, MoTA is very effective and it almost seems like a show written for Hyun Bin to shine. Jin Woo’s fall from grace and psychological collapse is well fleshed out. Hyun Bin’s given so much meaty scenes every episode to showcase his acting prowess and he balances charm and fragility so well. The brotherly relationships are very well written and Secretary Seo’s death was so poignant and powerful that all fans were deeply affected by it. I also appreciated how the relationship between Jin Woo and Seung Joon have been developed in recent episodes. Jin Woo is far from perfect as a man and has many flaws, but he has become someone we can sympathise and identify with because we see how isolated and devoid of love he is.

As for pacing, this show is progressing at a more steady pace compared to W Two Worlds which moved at breakneck speeds for the first half then lost steam in the last for episodes. MoTA has been moving steadily along; the twists in the game have come in gradually and the focus really is more on the characters and their relationships rather than the game. However I do feel that there have been too little answers provided by this point, which can also cause frustration. I’m willing to hold out for one or two more episodes, but we really need to know at this point more about Se Joo and what happened between him and Marco. I’m not even requiring full explanations on the fatal implications of the game, but it would be nice to finally have some answers on the design on the game and why it was created as such. Song Jae Jung has always been weak at endings because she has always written herself into a narrative deadlock; this time, she can still redeem herself but the explanations need to come soon or else she will lose viewers towards the end.

A final comment on the cinematography of the show which has been nothing short of stellar from start to end. The first few episodes could serve as a travel advertisement for Granada with so many shots of its beautiful streets and alleys. What I’ve appreciated though is how the show weaves in the game interface whenever the players are playing the game and how we often get a blend of perspectives whenever the game is being played: from the player (first person), from the game (seeing both the player and the villains) and from the innocent onlooker (where we see the player flailing about, beating into the air, looking really insane). I was hoping the show would take bolder steps into exploring augmented reality and its implications but so far it’s been rather thin on that.

With 5 more episodes on the line, there’s so much more than MoTA can do to perfect its rough edges. Its growing viewership indicates that it still remains popular. It has the potential to be SJJ’s best show if it starts providing more answers and starts bringing Hee Joo more into the game.


City Hunter Episodes 1-5


What a ride this show is! I’ve been meaning to watch this show as it has been touted as the show to get someone addicted on kdramas. I can definitely see why: exciting action, captivating leads, intense political machinations and sweet romance. This show has something for everyone, which probably explains why it was such a ratings monster during its time.

The premiere was so busy and fast-paced that I was worried it was going to be yet another action-packed, soulless drama, but the pace mellowed in subsequent episodes, providing space for the characters to breathe while also advancing the plot very swiftly. Not many shows are able to do both pacing and character development well, but somehow this show has found that fine balance while also breathing life into commonly used tropes.

The separated parent and child trope is so commonly used in kdramas, but most shows delay any possible sighting or reunion till the second half of the drama. Not in this show! We’re at episode 3 and Yoon Sung has already seen his mum, which complicates an already tense relationship between him and Jin Pyo.

I’m really loving the characterisation of Yoon Sung. What I like is that he is driven by revenge but he is being smart about it and not blindly following the desires of Jin Pyo, his adopted father. What he says about Jin Pyo losing his comrades but him losing his family captures his predicament so perfectly. Jin Pyo is blinded by rage and vengeance; he would kill anyone (possibly even his own son) just to avenge his comrades. Yoon Sung, however, still wants to live a guilt-free, peaceful life after he has completed his mission. His motivations are clearly laid out and perfectly relatable, which make him such an enjoyable character to watch.

The struggle between Yoon Sung and Jin Pyo also adds a layer of intrigue and tension because we not only have them trying to take out the Council of Five, but we have both of them trying to outwit and outsmart each other through the “first one to the target” battle. Nonetheless, the battle is not a simple no-holds-barred winner takes all as they know each other so well, have learnt from each other and still care for each other. What could therefore have been a straightforward assassination attempt for Yong Hak (the upcoming presidential candidate) in episodes 4 to 5 becomes an exciting battle between Yoon Sung and Jin Pyo, ultimately with Yoon Sung saving Jin Pyo from the lift and persuading Jin Pyo that his methods may be better because Yong-hak would have been hailed as a champion of democracy if he died today.

While Yoon Sung’s interactions with Jin Pyo are full of energy and high-strung, his interactions with Kim Na Na are so natural and genuine. There’s always such a wonderful ease and joy when we see both of them on screen, teasing each other and getting to know one another. Park Min Young really excels in these hero/heroine dramas, just like in Healer. However, what makes her character stand out is that she’s not a damsel in need of saving; in fact, she possesses both the mental agility and physical prowess to defend herself. And she clearly enjoys being in the heat of action and being the heroine – after saving Yong-hak, that look of pride and joy in her face is so evident. Regardless of how dire her circumstances may be, Na Na always remains fiercely independent, which is what I like about her. She never declares she needs anything and in fact, is offended when  Yoon Sung tries to step in gallantly with his money and wealth of resources to try to ‘save’ her. This is where Yoon Sung needs to grow in, because while his intellect and resources may easily help him win the battles, winning someone’s heart certainly takes more respect and honour.

A minor complaint I have is that I wish the politicians that Yoon Sung were up against were just a tad more capable and an equal match to him, at least in intellect if not strength. Since he barely disguises himself when he’s in “City Hunter” mode, I’m surprised that none of these highly capable politicians have managed to muster up the resources to identify and locate him. I always prefer our bad guys and good guys to be equally matched, but of course, it’s early in the series and our so-called “good guys” now have the first mover advantage. I’m sure as we progress through the Council of Five, they will wisen up and start taking more decisive action to defend themselves against Jin Pyo and Yoon Sung. Of course, we can foresee that the cracks will further deepen between the two of them before being recovered and that will definitely add to the complication.

I can’t wait to finish watching the rest of this series!

Voice Season 2: Premiere


I skipped Season 1 of Voice, but decided to give Season 2 a go since the show received such high ratings. Lee Jin Wook joining the cast as psychopathic detective Kang Dong Woo was another motivation for me, because I truly enjoyed his performance in Nine.

Looks like Voice 2 off to a great start with the premiere already breaking OCN’s records.

From what I’ve read, what I can expect is a gritty, dark, fast-paced drama with gruesome murders and intriguing crime-solving. The premiere definitely met those expectations. The first few minutes were so difficult to watch. From there, the episode just takes off in a breath-taking pace with a hostage situation on a train followed by the death of Kang Kyung Hak and then a quick moving investigation that takes place on the go as both Dong Woo and and Kwon Joo set off on a separate paths to find the one who placed the accelerator in Kyung Hak’s car. We are introduced to the villain, who is resourceful and bent on taking down the team. The cinematography is beautiful and I loved the car chase being shot from the top of the winding road, with the voiceover of our villain creepily telling the story of how Eskimos hunt down wolves. In short, I can definitely see why this show is popular as it is energetic and exciting.

It’d be interesting to see how Dong Woo’s psychopathic abilities of reading a crime scene immediately to identify the criminal’s actions and intents complement Kwon Joo’s voice profiling abilities. Already in this premiere, we see Dong Woo’s hints about the shoes serving as an important piece to help Kwon Joo link together what she sees about the skim marks on the road. I have to admit I’m fascinated by the concept of a voice profiler and watching her at work is nothing short of fascinating as she uses nothing but sounds to reconstruct a sequence of what happens.

However, the show’s fast and exciting pace can be a pitfall as the characters were barely fleshed out and many times, merely seemed as chess pieces to move the plot ahead where required. I’ve read reviews about the characterisation being weak in Voice and I’m already seeing signs of this in the premiere. For me, the draw is always about the characters, their stories and motivations; however, this was sorely lacking from the premiere. Besides seeing the gruesome murder of his assistant in the first few minutes, we barely understand more about him.

Based on the trailer in Episode 2, I believe we will get to understand more about Dong Woo’s motivations and I’m liking that potential complicated set up between him and Kwon Joo where there will be a secret investigation into the murderer while his arrest serves as a cover. I’ll give the show a few more episodes before I decide to plunge in till the end. If it’s good enough, I might even watch Voice Season 1.

Are You Human Too? – Series Review


[Spoilers abound]

It all started with a flight back from a holiday where I watched I’m not a Robot and got completely hooked. Then I became fascinated with robot dramas and started on Are You Human Too? (AYHT). It just happened that the time I got hooked in AYHT coincided with an extended public holiday, so I completed the drama in a few days.

While there were many flaws in this drama, I found it extremely charming and thought-provoking. Let’s get the flaws out of the way first.

First of all, I personally took a long time to warm up to So-bong because she was incredibly wilful in the first few episodes. Things got better when we started to understand her back story and then started defending Nam-Shin III. However, I have to say I never warmed up to her dad, his two side kicks and reporter Jo. It came to a point where I even fast-forwarded through their scenes because the supposed comic effect of their characters just never quite worked. It felt over the top and forced.

Secondly, the show adopted a very lazy way of moving the plot forward by having people lurking behind walls while other characters were sharing important secrets. So-Bong found out about the kill-switch while overhearing a conversation between Young-hoon and Ro-ra; Ye-Na finds out about her dad’s involvement because she’s somehow in the office when he tells his assistant about it. Shin finds out about that Chairman Nam has known all along about Nam-Shin III being a robot because he’s behind a pillar when NSIII is telling David. It’s incredibly convenient and lazy way of revealing things to different characters.

My final beef is the rushed ending of the show. There was way too much plot jam-packed into the last two episodes that we did not get to see how Shin transformed from evil to good. Most of it took place offscreen. There was so much going on with the Shins that I also felt So-bong got sidelined and became rather bland as a character.

Now, on to what I liked, and there’s a lot to like.

First of all, I loved the thought-provoking and deep points raised by the series about what makes us human. Of course, most of us would say it is emotions that make us human and robots will always be inferior because they cannot feel and thus relate to others. However, as shown through Nam-Shin III, emotions do not necessarily make humans superior and it is in fact Nam-Shin III’s unflinching devotion to his rules and principles to help humans that result in him making the right decisions. When I first started watching the series, I thought it’d be about how the robot becomes more ‘humanized’ as he learns feelings. While that happened, the show had a larger point to make about self discovery and realisation. Ultimately the journey for NSIII was not to become human, but to embrace his identity as a robot and not be ashamed of it. He also had to learn to emerge out of the shadow of Shin and realise he was not just supposed to take the place of Shin, but to be his own person/being. That eventually happened when he was able to override Shin’s manual mode and release his hold of So-bong on the roof-top. This also leads to another strength of the show, which is in its characterisation.

I found the show’s characterisation of NSIII and Shin to be extremely layered, profound and complex, especially once Shin woke up. While Shin only truly emerged as a character after the halfway mark, it never seemed like he was absent and his appearance was built upon the impressions we had of him when NSIII tried to integrate into his world. Shin was certainly a very dark character, but all through it, I always felt we could see where all his hatred, resentment and angst came from. He had already developed a cold, hard exterior from having to hide his emotions from a young age. Upon awakening and realising that a robot had taken his place and was in fact excelling in his place, his only reaction was to rebel against it by turning even darker and causing pain to those around him. Ye Na said it the best when she tells him to live his own life, rather than obsess over NSIII’s life. The show did very well in never condoning his actions or causing us to sympathise with him, but it never felt like he was just being evil for the sake of it. While Ro-ra’s death was sudden, it was the only thing that could truly serve to wake him up, that and the message from NSIII that she was sorry to leave him alone again. This is also partly why I’m resentful that we never got to see his redemption story or his reconciliations. There are apologies needed definitely to characters like Young Hoon and Chairman Nam, but all this happened off-screen. What a waste.

Having said all this, Seo Kang-Joon’s performance is nothing short of stellar in this show. In fact, his performance along kept me engaged through the entire series. As a robot, he is such a delight to watch and his attempts to pretend to be Shin in the early episodes provided much laughs, especially when he suddenly changes his facial expression from his usual genial appearance to a more surly, curt look. He plays the innocence and simplicity of NSIII with such charm, yet also in such a mechanical manner that you know he’s still a robot. When Shin appears, he’s able to convey that dark, cold-hearted nature in such a convincing manner that every scene with Shin sends chills down your spine. He’s certainly proven himself to be not just a pretty face, but someone with genuine talent.

Last of all, while I did criticise the rushed ending of the show, I found the series overall to be very well-paced, with always something happening in each episode to keep us on the edge of our seats. There were many genuine shockers along the way – the most impressive one being that Chairman Nam was the sponsor of Ro-ra and was aware of NSIII’s existence the whole while. I loved that reveal because it raised the stakes and showed that NSIII had bigger goals than just to fulfill Ro-ra’s need for her son’s comfort. Of course, I also never saw Ro-ra’s death coming, but upon hindsight, that was inevitable. Weighty moments were balanced with more light-hearted moments, especially when NSIII decided to kiss So-bong to escape marriage with Ye-Na. This was a series that had found that sweet spot between balancing heartwarming moments with steady plot development. Just for its entertainment value, I would highly recommend the show. As icing on the cake, the OST for this show is also fantastic with a great mix of sentimental ballads and light-hearted energetic pieces.

Suspicious Partner Episodes 19-20


As mentioned in my previous review, the writer is really using the mid-point episodes to set things up for the second half, as evident from what we learn about Ji Wook and Bong Hee’s dads in this episode. As a result of that, the episodes themselves feel rather slow in terms of plot development, unlike many of the previous episodes. The court case involving the mum who took the fall for her son was rather weak too – zipped through and closed with not much fanfare. Nonetheless, we have plenty of juicy, delicious character moments in these two episode, so I’m not really complaining.

While we spent most of the earlier episodes with awkward, bumbling Ji Wook, his charisma is slowly emerging in recent episodes after he admits to his feelings for Bong Hee. The Ji Wook we are seeing now seems liberated, confident and emotionally forthright, giving us hints of the man he was before Yoo Jung and Eun Hyuk’s betrayal happened. He’s persistent in his pursuit of Bong Hee, teasing her and endlessly trying to charm her. Bong Hee is no longer pushing him away, but neither is she fully embracing his affection either. They’re both taking small steps forward, opening up to each other gradually and that gives us plenty of sweet, humorous and heartfelt moments within this episode, like the dish-washing scene, Bong Hee’s confession in the carpark, and their almost-kiss that was hindered by their mugs! Nonetheless, I’m disappointed that he made the choice in this episode to hide the truth yet again from Bong Hee, especially since he knows she’s in such a vulnerable position in relation to Hyun Soo. Hyun Soo’s fascination with Bong Hee is evident, hence I really wish Ji Wook would stop protecting her unnecessarily and let her in on the truth, so they can investigate this together.

Moving on to Hyun Soo, he hasn’t really done much recently but he’s certainly proving himself to be more capable and sharp than your typical cold-blooded murderer. He has a certain method about his madness that’s fascinating and intriguing. More so than his evil actions, I’m truly keen to find out more about what’s going on in his mind and what his bigger game plan is. The exchange between him and Ji Wook was extremely well-played and I loved watching them pit against each other mentally. Hyun Soo never goes as far as to threaten Ji Wook – he’s wiser than that – whatever information he gains, he uses it to his advantage and plays the victim card, so that nothing he says can ever entrap him. Ji Wook also plays his cards close and never unveils his deeper suspicions of Hyun Soo. He’s continually apologetic during the conversation, also playing the unknowing, innocent card, saying that he’s just doing what he feels needs to be done as a prosecutor. The verbal sparring between them is intense and fun to watch and leaves me wondering what Hyun Soo’s next move will be. For a moment, I did wonder if the husband in the court case was killed by Hyun Soo, but I guess not. I foresee he might be taking a pause in his murder spree for the time-being so as to get Bong Hee and Ji Wook to stop pestering him. He might even try to get himself a job in Ji Wook’s firm.

And finally, the big reveal in this episode about their fathers. I’m still waiting to see how this pans out, but at the moment, it feels like way too much of a coincidence for me that their fathers are connected, which I’m certain will become a source of angst subsequently. I’m not sure that we really needed this complication in their relation or in the show as we do have several other storylines and characters I feel have been sorely neglected, like Eun Hyuk and Yoo Jung. However, more importantly, I feel that we really didn’t need yet another source of tension between Bong Hee and Ji Wook, which feels tangential from what’s been developing lately. Nonetheless, I place my trust in the writers who have thus far been competent.

Now that we’ve set up some key pieces for the next half of the series, I’m looking forward to returning to the tightness of writing and quick-footed pace that’s made this show so enjoyable for the first half. There’s indeed lots of material still left for the show to explore, so I’m hopeful for an enjoyable second half of this show.

Suspicious Partner Episodes 17-18

This episode felt slower – there were too many flashbacks and things just weren’t progressing very much. It was still an enjoyable and meaningful episode and I can see that the episode was also doing some setting up for the next half of the series.

Things have certainly progressed significantly for our protagonists and it’s not hard to see why Bong Hee is reluctant to sacrifice her current stability and satisfaction to enter into a relationship with Ji Wook. After working so hard to keep her feelings aside, she’s settling well into her job and has built a good relationship with her fellow colleagues. More importantly, she’s reached a stage of emotional stability where she can control her feelings for Ji Wook and does not latch on to him for stability. Ji Wook’s confession throws her into a whirlwind of emotions again and makes her vulnerable once again.

I appreciate how characters in this show talk things out, confess their honest feelings for each other and move ahead, rather than avoid their emotions or worse still run away. In that respect, I really liked the conversation the next morning between Ji Wook and Bong Hee, where Ji Wook asks Bong Hee for the permission to like her, a nice reversal from what happened just a few episodes ago. He looks at her with such warm and puppy-dog sincerity that you really have to wonder how Bong Hee managed to stand firm! Then, he gives his most genuine, sweet smile after confessing his feelings that you can see he’s no longer the emotionally detached man from a few episodes ago. I loved the little touch of weakness after they separate and Ji Wook’s bravado cracks and he tries to catch his breath.

The honest conversations continue as Ji Wook and Bong Hee go on an investigation and Bong Hee shares how she’s tried so hard not to like him. I’m really loving how Ji Wook and Bong Hee’s conversations move so smoothly from heart-felt emotional to fun and teasing. Ji Wook’s feigned broad smile after that was hilarious and I enjoyed how he immediately reminded her that now that it’s work, he has the upper hand and he’s boss! After that exchange, we move swiftly into our investigations where we learn new things about our Chan-Ho and Hyun-Soo duo, including the discovery of this photo:

Who’s the third person in this photo? Those certainly look like happier days between Chan-Ho and Hyun-Soo, so what happened in between then to lead to their current tense and unbalanced relationship where Hyun Soo has the upper hand?

Related to the investigation, I’m not liking how Ji Wook and Mr Bang feel the need to hide everything from Bong Hee, especially since Ji Wook already knows that Hyun Soo has been trying to contact with her. This over-protectiveness does not seem necessary, neither does it seem helpful. Obviously, Hyun Soo beat him to it and arranges to meet Bong Hee to tell her he didn’t actually have an alibi on that day. Hyun Soo is certainly a sharp man as he already saw Mr Bang investigating earlier and therefore ups his game. It’s a risky game he is playing though because that would certainly open him up to suspicion, but one has to wonder what game he’s playing then – is he trying to gain Bong Hee’s trust? Why? What exactly is his bigger game plan and why is Bong Hee such a critical piece in this?

I appreciated too that Yoo Jung finally has a bigger purpose to play in the grand scheme of things, after being assigned by the DA to reinvestigate the death of Hee-joon. I’m still not feeling much for her because I was hoping for more ‘softening’ and growth for her character after we saw some her reach out to Eun Hyuk last week, but she still seems to be stuck and dwelling on the past. Eun Hyuk, on the other hand, continues to win me over with his sweetness and supportiveness for Bong Hee. CEO Byun is certainly a ball of fun and just cracks me up in every scene that he’s in.

With Yoo Jung now part of the investigation and the mounting tension between Hyun Soo and Chan Ho, I’m all ready for the stakes to be raised!

Suspicious Partner Episodes 15-16


Finally – the first kiss between Ji Wook and Bong Hee – that we know of! Heh.

We knew it was coming because the signs were all there – Ji Wook sheepishly following Bong Hee around, his pining looks at her in the office, his jealous stares when seeing her with Eun Hyuk and his overwhelming protectiveness and concern for her. As much as he very much wants to be emotionally distant from her, he just can’t seem to do so. Ironically, it is Bong Hee’s pushing him away that pulls him even closer. She’s determined to stand up for herself and tells him off when he tries to defend her against the District Attorney. She doesn’t want to be indebted to him and tells Eun Hyuk that she’s decided not to like him, but just to become his fan – because then she won’t have any expectations of him. However, in the scene with her mum at the pizza restaurant (seriously, is that the only place where the two of them ever meet?), she can’t hold back her tears anymore and her mum sees through her eyes how much she really likes this man.

On a separate note, we don’t see Bong Hee and Ji Wooks’ mums very often, but I’m really like the dynamics both of them share with their mums, especially between Ji Wook and his mum. The combination of doting, affectionate love together with over-brimming pride is so endearing, perhaps because she has also been trying to make up for the absence of a father figure in his life.

While the love story is making steady progress, it feels like we’re hurtling ahead in a good way with our murder storyline ever since the revelations started coming in. From a simple murder storyline, it’s become a twisted, complex power-play between two characters who still remain rather mysterious and shady. Chan-ho is coming off as the vulnerable one here, living in fear yet so close to cracking and exposing the truth to Bong Hee. So, now we also know that Bong Hee and her ex-boyfriend were actually unfortunate causalities, in the wrong place at the wrong time, and not part of Hyun-soo’s big plan. It makes sense that Hyun Soo would want to keep Bong Hee close, since he knows she’s determined to clear her name and now he knows Chan-Ho is getting close to her.  The dynamics between Chan-ho and Hyun-soo are clearer now, but I’m interested in both their backstory as well as what the next step is for them. Is Hyun Soo going to ditch (or kill) Chan Ho, now that he sees him trying to betray him? Honestly, it’d be a very bold move if the show decides to kill off Chan Ho, but even if that happens, I believe it won’t happen so soon because we don’t know enough about him to feel sad at his loss. A killer with a clear yet layered agenda is always more interesting than a killer who gets caught up in an endless cycle of having to commit more murders to cover up his previous ones. While I started this series being completely sucked into the individual stories of Ji Wook and Bong Hee, I’m now sucked into the murder storyline and keen to see what their next steps are.

Besides our love story and murder storyline, there’s plenty to love in the show. I’m really liking the friendship that’s developing between Eun Hyuk and Bong Hee – they don’t like each other, but they can relate and connect to each other very well, because they are both in similar circumstances. Eun Hyuk is such a genuine, good-natured and sweet man and it pained me to see him celebrating his birthday on his own. While he’s always been more jolly and cheerful than Ji Wook, deep down he’s hurting just as much, if not much more because remorse and repentance is always difficult to overcome as it is out of your control. At least Ji Wook sending him an incomplete birthday greeting and Yoo Jung’s present and remembering his birthday provided him with a glimpse of joy in this episode. If there’s something the show hasn’t started exploring yet, it is that journey of reconciliation between Ji Wook, Yoo Jung and Eun Hyuk and now that Ji Wook’s heart has been softened by Bong Hee, perhaps it’s time that he will start opening up and welcoming Eun Hyuk back into his life again. It’s a mark of masterful storytelling that even as the story progresses so swiftly, there’s still so much more interesting and engaging story left to tell that it doesn’t seem like the show is losing steam.

It seems inevitable that I’ll have to comment on the directing of this show in every review, but there’s just so much to say. That kiss scene was so masterfully done – the camera angles, the shots and the music selection – or rather, the complete silence when the kiss happened. Everything was perfectly executed without being overly showy or hyped up. It was a quiet, sweet, tender moment that was as much about two people falling in love as it was about two broken individuals finding their feet in this world again. I’m glad to say I’ve finally found my first drama-crack series of 2017!

Suspicious Partner: Episodes 13-14


Suspicious Partner continues to keep things fresh by bringing different storylines to the forefront in each episode, while also moving the others in the background gradually. There’s a certain art in the way it balances its storylines that’s admirable and I’m hoping it keeps up this momentum because it keeps each episode engaging and interesting.

In this episode, the murderer storyline finally moves to the forefront, with Hyun Soo’s case seemingly providing the answers to everything. I’m honestly surprised that we got the answer to who killed Bong Hee’s boyfriend so quickly, which makes me suspect if this is a red herring. However, it is convincing somewhat that Hyun Soo could have killed Bong Hee’s boyfriend, based on his uncontrollable outburst against those who abused or victimised women. Even with this big reveal, there still remain many unanswered questions that I’m excited to find out more about. What exactly is the relationship between Hyun Soo and Chan Ho? We know they are both accomplices, but is Chan Ho cracking under the guilt of what’s going on? Is that why he seems to be getting closer to Bong Hee – to warn her? Also, why are they still keeping close to Bong Hee, when it would be easier to stay further away, since she’s after all an attorney right now? Perhaps it’s a case of keeping your enemies close, so they are also aware of how far she’s progressing in her investigations. However, what’s the bigger end-game then? If we know that Hyun Soo is against those who victimise women, isn’t his actions of framing Bong Hee also similarly a kind of ‘victimisation’? So many questions, which I hope will be satisfactorily answered.

With the whole Hyun Soo case at the forefront, Ji Wook also got a chance to shine and show off his investigative prowess as well as his keen intuition. I like that we’re getting to see more of his competence come to the forefront. However, he is once again placed in a position of conflict, that even as he has fought a good case to show that the evidence against Hyun Soo was flawed, his own sleuthing has in fact unearthed evidence to prove that Hyun Soo is the murderer. While he was recognised in Hyun Soo’s case for his competence as an attorney, what went unnoticed was his competence as a prosecutor. For Mr Bang, the lines are clear – finding out who the culprit is is not an attorney’s job, but a prosecutor’s job. However, for Ji Wook, things are more murky and I loved the morally grey territory that Ji Wook was treading in throughout the episode. You could see that conflict and uncertainty in Ji Wook’s eyes – as he delivered his final statement, as he heard the verdict and as he went back home that at night.

While the murder and court-room battle took centre stage in tonight’s episode, we certainly also got a good dose of sweetness and fun between Ji Wook and Bong Hee. Ji Wook’s defenses are gradually being broken down and we know it’s a matter of time before he realises he can no longer run away from his feelings. However, I’m really admiring Bong Hee’s maturity in the whole situation. She took a step of courage to confess her liking of Ji Wook, which was definitely not easy given the rejection and pain she suffered after her ex-boyfriend. When she’s turned down by Ji Wook, she tells him the next day honestly to stop treating her nicely, so as not to give her false hopes, and that she wants to go back to hating him, like back when he was her mentor. So, of course, Ji Wook takes the bait and hilariously treats her as she’s requested, sending her climbing through the window in a house to open the door for him. That was good fun! Loved the scene too where he asks her to stay with him, so that he can sleep. She knows that staying with him just that 5 minutes will be tough for her, because it goes against her earlier stated decision to hate him. However, she puts his needs before hers, and decides to stay with him so that he can sleep better.

With the upcoming confrontation between Hyun Soo and Ji Wook, we know that Bong Hee is going to be put in greater danger in the episodes to come and that will certainly mean that Ji Wook’s protectiveness and care for her must come to the forefront. There’s so much to look forward to, yet also so much uncertainty about where the show will take us. Am truly loving this show so much!

Suspicious Partner Episodes 11-12


I’m still liking this show lots, but I’m starting to feel like our show’s getting a little “crowded” with its latest celebrity chef murder storyline (where both the murderer and the accused get significant screen time) and the appearance of Yoo Jung. Unfortunately as well, I’m not finding Yoo Jung’s character interesting or compelling in anyway, which also makes me wish that we had spent more time on the other characters. Of course it’s still early stages, but she spent most of the episode moping and feebly trying to reconnect with either Ji Wook or Eun Hyuk – which is alright, but I was hoping for there to be more to drive her character ahead than just rebuilding burnt bridges. I don’t hate her, but I don’t sympathise with her either – it’s all just meh at the moment.

And because I didn’t connect with Yoo Jung, I was really hoping we could have spent more time with our other characters. That being said, I liked how we deepened our exploration of Eun Hyuk’s character in this episode and we see the beginnings (the theme of this episode!) of a heartwarming friendly between him and Bong Hee. I really loved the scene where both Bong Hee and Eun Hyuk were in the car, after seeing Ji Wook fetch Yoo Jung home, and Eun Hyuk laughs after Bong Hee tells him that she wishes she were more sick. She responds to him, telling him he doesn’t need to laugh, and so he stops and returns to his contemplative mood. She knows how he’s feeling, and he’s feeling just as unhappy as she is, and she’s telling him that he does not need to pretend or put up a front around her. Eun Hyk confides in Bong Hee earlier, telling her that he’s always laughing and joking, because that’s his own defence mechanism, his way of still allowing himself to be around Ji Wook in spite of all the hurt, remorse, pain and loneliness he feels too. We get scenes of him in his own house – well-furnished, but cold and soulless – and he stares blankly ahead, not knowing what to do, how to feel or what to say and the only thing we see him do is take off his jacket – perhaps symbolic that his defence mechanisms are being worn down too.

Ji Wook and Bong Hee continue to be fun together and while I liked seeing him display some finesse in the courtroom, I enjoyed the scenes of his gentleness even more, especially the one at the start of the episode where he caught Bong Hee’s head as she nodded off  with such tenderness that she just continued to lie on his hand, smiling peacefully and comfortably like as if she’s the happiest woman in the world. When he sees her return from that encounter with the District Attorney with a scar around her neck, he senses something is wrong and he goes to check on her in her room. Even when she chooses not to tell him what happened, he does not insist, because he respects her decision to keep it private, but just asks her tenderly whether she’s alright – twice. There’s such a sweetness in him respecting her boundaries and desire to keep it private. This contrasts of course with Bong Hee’s more outlandish, playful nature where she’s unafraid to ask difficult questions, wear her heart on her sleeve and tell people what they need to know. This is why they are so good for each other.

I’ve spoken before about the directing of this show, but I realise what I appreciate is not just that it’s stylistically beautiful and magical, but that it captures human interactions so well. The directing really reveals that we communicate so much through our body language. There’s a lot of focus on ‘hands’ in this show – tender touches, awkward hugs, firm holds, strangling grips, warm embraces and decisive pushing away. We also get many shots of our characters’ eyes, which reveal so much more than what they say, especially for Ji Wook. He may be denying his feelings with his words, but his eyes say everything. His affection for her was just overflowing in that scene in the rain through his entire facial expression – not just his eyes, but his broad, cheerful smile. I believe that’s the first time we’ve ever seen him smile so happily! I’ve always thought The K2 didn’t give JCW enough opportunity to showcase his excellent acting skills, but he gets plenty of opportunities here and I thought he did very well in the closing scene, where his eyes spoke volumes as he responded to Bong Hee’s confession of love. He wanted to hug her in return, but you could just see that deep hurt and fear in his eyes – echoed also in the voice-over as he talks about beginnings that do not necessarily progress.

As for the murderer storyline, it’s alright at the moment, but I realise we still have big questions that remain unanswered that hopefully we get some light on soon, like – why did the murderer kill Bong Hee’s ex-boyfriend? I’m not sure we got a very clear answer on that. I thought we’d be understanding our murderer a bit more, but right now all we have is him lurking around news broadcasts looking mysterious. I’m all ready now for us to move ahead in that storyline, but there’s just so much I’m wanting from this show now, that it’d be impossible for each episode to fulfill my wishes. Heh. Nonetheless, if I may just have one wish for next week’s episodes, let us have more fun scenes between Ji Wook and Bong Hee’s mums – those two are hilarious!

Suspicious Partner Episodes 9-10

What’s great about Suspicious Partner is that things keep moving around and dynamics keep getting shifted – so much has changed once again from the end of Episode 8 to the end of Episode 10. Ji Wook goes from being an attorney employed by CEO Byun to being a prosecutor who hires CEO Byun, Eun Hyuk, Bong Hee and Mr. Jang. Our protagonists have yet another farewell, but once again reunite. From being isolated and lonely, Ji Wook and Bong Hee now almost have a new sort of ‘family’ in Ji Wook’s new firm. Everyone’s at a better place emotionally – especially our two protagonists and yes, I’ve never heard the word ‘hostage’ used in such a cool and sweet manner. Eun Hyuk and Ji Wook’s friendship have moved an inch ahead as Ji Wook has accepted Eun Hyuk into his firm.

This show is certainly turning out to be a lot of fun and I’m really enjoying the energy of the entire ensemble, not just between our two protagonists. Can I just say how much I’m loving CEO Byun?  He’s cares a lot for Ji Wook, in a somewhat overbearing and imposing manner that Ji Wook can’t stand, but also cannot turn down because he’s just such a warm and fuzzy figure. I loved that scene of him scheming with Mr Jang to fall on the floor crying and asking Mr Jang to flip over the table – and he actually did it! Mr Jang is also equally hilarious and Eun Hyuk’s unabashed, persistent ‘love’ (in his own words) for Ji Wook is endearing.  While I was previously annoyed by the unnecessary sound effects, I thought they were done very well in this episode – just subtly inserted into the scenes between Ji Wook and Bong Hee, like little embellishments to make a moving scene that little bit more quirky and cute. The tonal shifts continue to be well done – I especially liked how we moved from the deep, serious and painful interaction between Ji Wook and Yoo Jung at the start, to the playful tone as Bong Hee has way too much fun pretending to be Ji Wook’s partner. Loved how the show moved from the more deep conversation between Ji Wook and Eun Hyuk in the park to the comical fight scene between them and the teenagers, which started with the two of them evaluating the legal implications of their actions.

Mixed in with all the humour is more important revelations on what happened between Yoo Jung, Ji Wook and Eun Hyuk in the past. We learn that the three of them used to be close friends, with Yoo Jung and Eun Hyuk being Ji Wook’s only friends by his side after his dad left. Eun Hyuk liked Yoo Jung first, but she liked Ji Wook. He tried to give up his feelings for her but couldn’t, which resulted in the betrayal. We’ve always sensed that the friendship between Ji Wook and Eun Hyuk went deep, and now we know just how deep it went. This explains why Ji Wook can never forgive Eun Hyuk, but also why Eun Hyuk is so persistent in ‘winning’ Ji Wook back. The set up seems almost too neat and we can see how everything will eventually fall together nicely with both Ji Wook & Bong Hee and Eun Hyuk & Yoo Jung pairing up at the end, but there are definitely emotional hurdles on many fronts that need to be overcome before everything gets tied together in a neat, happy bow.


On the note of emotional hurdles, our protagonists also take strides ahead. I admire Bong Hee’s courage and independence. In spite of her desperate situation – financially and emotionally – she chooses not to cling to Ji Wook and leaves his place. While it’s an act of courage, it’s also in part an act of cowardice because she’s fearful of getting overly attached to him, which can in itself become a source of weakness and lead her to become emotionally vulnerable. I liked how Ji Wook went to find her to get her back, yet in that conversation, they still keep their distance and sit far apart. Unlike Bong Hee who is indeed shameless and keeps all her emotions at the surface, Ji Wook’s emotions runs deep. Ji Wook can immediately tell from Bong Hee’s eyes that she wants to know more about Yoo Jung, but Bong Hee is unable to tell from his face if he’s serious about wanting her back. When she tells that she can’t tell he’s serious, Ji Wook has to artificially and uncomfortably force his face to display his seriousness – which is very telling of how he may have grown so cold and distant from the world around him that he no longer knows how to display his emotions, except through actions. Even in showing his care for Bong Hee, he phrases it very business-like, as him having to keep her hostage so as to catch the killer. However, we know it’s more than that because we get insights into how he feels when she’s gone and that whole sequence of him walking throughout his house with scenes of Bong Hee packing snacks for him, tidying his fridge and packing her bag was so well-done – so heartfelt, poignant and tender – a beautiful combination of strong writing, great acting and competent direction.

Oh – and on the directing – wasn’t it great how we were first shown the scenes between Yoo Jung and Ji Wook from the past from Ji Wook’s perspective, and then later on, we got shown the exact same scenes, but from Eun Hyuk’s perspective. Both flashbacks were deeply painful, but for very different reasons.

And finally, we also have a murderer on the loose, whose intentions seem slightly murky at the moment. The murderer storyline is getting slightly less attention at this point, which is fine by me because it is no longer the key driving force of the narrative as it was in episodes 3 and 4. Nonetheless, it continues to intrigue me and I’m sensing and also hoping that we’ll get to know our murderer better, that he’ll not just be a one-dimensional, cold-blooded killer, but someone whom we’ll come to understand and relate to. For now, it does seem like he’s a lonely, but smart person. His awareness of forensic procedures gives him that edge that allows him to always escape being captured. His crime goes beyond simply killing people, but also setting it up such that others get accused. While he doesn’t actually kidnap them, his act of framing them keeps them ‘hostage’ and trapped, stuck with that label of murderer that can never be removed – as we’ve seen with Bong Hee.

The only character who isn’t quite working for me at the moment is Yoo Jung, who still seems rather one-dimensional as the ex who’s bent on getting her partner back at all cost. Of course, her air time in the present day storyline has been rather brief, so I may be judging her too soon.

With so many new kdramas beginning this week, we’re spoilt for choice and I could only follow one show due to the busyness of my schedule. I’m glad I chose Suspicious Partner, because it’s turning out to be one of the most fun yet meaningful shows I’ve watched!