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.

Nine Time Travel: Series Review [spoilers ahead]


I’ve been meaning to catch Nine Time Travel after watching W Two Worlds and finally found some time in the middle of assignments to do so. This has to be the best drama series I’ve ever watched in a long time, and not just k-dramas for that matter. The show sucked me in completely and while I took a while with the first four episodes because I was travelling, I finished the other 16 episodes within 2 days. The series had such a strong momentum pushing it ahead and was completely compelling at every turn. The pacing was almost perfect and the show made the most of each twist to fully explore the emotional ramifications on the characters involved. It took a bold, deep step into exploring the very tricky, complex device of time travel and brought it to life in a way I’ve never seen before.

In summary, Park Sun Woo, a newscaster, discovers through delving deeper into his brother’s death that he was in Nepal looking for a box of incense sticks, which allows one to transport 20 years into the past whenever it is lit. Each stick takes 30 minutes to burn, which means whatever needs to be done in the past had to be accomplished within 30 minutes. However, what’s fascinating is that both the past and present move in a linear manner, meaning that the change in the present only happens once the character in the past makes a decision that will change the present, and that could happen after the visit to the past is made. This keeps things interesting because both the characters in the present and past retain their sense of free will and have the ability to make their own decisions without any so-called ‘hand of fate’ controlling them.

The returns to the past start off on a victorious note with Sun Woo managing to use the incense sticks to go back to get even more sticks and then returning to bring cheer to his mum and fulfil his brother’s, Park Jung Woo’s, wish of getting together with Yoo Jin. However, things start to take a bleak turn when the good intent on his part penalises him as it turns out his lover, Joo Min Young, is the daughter of Yoo Jin. Bringing his brother together with Yoo Jin in the past results in Min Young becoming his niece and hence him losing her. The events take an even bleaker turn as he returns to reverse his dad’s death and realises that it was Jung Woo who accidentally killed his dad and not the villain of the show, Choi Jin Cheol. He returns again to the past to persuade his brother to confess his crime, but it turns out that is insufficient to reverse the present as Choi has already bribed the police, hence he realises he needs to rely on other allies, i.e. his boss Oh Chul min, who’s a young reporter back then to bring the truth to light. I always enjoy shows with characters who continually think on their feet and come up with ways to manoveur out of difficult situations and Sun Woo manages to do that time and time again, even though the incense sticks seem intent to do him in.

While I enjoyed the overarching plot structure of the series as a whole, I also enjoyed how well-written and intense each individual episode was. Each individual episode was enjoyable on its own and often adopted a non-linear approach in exploring the telling the story, often times detouring from the present back to past, before returning to the painful present. The show also manages to deftly bring in light-hearted or victorious moments amidst the increasingly bleak main storyline by bringing in the past at appropriate moments and then almost always ending with a shocker that almost over-turns all that’s happened in the episode earlier. One perfect example of this was the episode where present Sun Woo dies because of his tumour. We know from the trailer that he dies, but of course, given that that was one of the earlier episodes, it’s also obvious that his end can’t be so soon. Through both skillful directing and writing, the whole episode shifts back and forth between past and present and in the past, we see Sun Woo gradually figuring out that he’s the one who’s going to die, and Young Hoon discovering the pills in his room which present Sun Woo dropped in an earlier scuffle. This key event then leads to a dramatic turn as we return to the present and Young Hoon realises that Sun Woo’s life has been saved, because he has been going for regular scans to pay particular attention to his health.

If I had to nitpick though, I would have liked the show to go deeper into the source of these incense sticks, which is an issue that’s never touched on – perhaps because it will just make things too complex. This was something that Queen In-hyun’s Man managed to deal with satisfactorily, but this show neglects to address. We do get many references to God/Him throughout and much time is spent in the hospital chapel with both Young Hoon and Sun Woo praying, or trying to pray because it’s something so foreign to them. However, perhaps the source of the incense sticks is a moot-point, because at the end of the series, Sun Woo realises that he is the final incense stick – he was the one who brought the fruit of knowledge to those around him and as such, he’s the one who was ultimately in control all along. It’s quite a chilling realisation, if you ask me, yet also neat and in sync with the show’s logic. There’s been a lot of thought put into the mechanics of time travel in this show, and it’s largely consistent throughout, even as more people get clued in onto the time travel process.

Beyond the writing and directing, it is certainly the cast as well who brings the show to life and I must say that Lee Jin Wook far outshines everybody else. He plays Sun Woo with such aplomb and charisma that it almost seems like the role was written for him. He’s able to present such layered emotions within his expression, hiding sorrow beneath smiles or shocks beneath serenity. It’s a pity he’s kind of gone into oblivion mostly after that and is no longer recognised as one of the top male stars in the kdrama-verse. It does seem though that he was the most deeply and intricately written character within the whole show and the other characters were more or less short-changed because most of the others lacked that depth and complexity, the most obvious of all being Jo Yoon-Hee’s character – Min Young. I never quite connected with her character – if I ever cried or felt for her, it was because of the pain that it also caused to Sun Woo, but never did I quite connect with her, either as Joo Min Young or Park Min Young. She just didn’t ever come alive in the show, and it felt that as a character, she was simply responding to Sun Woo’s actions or passively responding to circumstances. She certainly wasn’t a heroine of any sort. It’s strange that I started to like her character more in the finale because she started to show more of her spunk and wackiness, but most of that disappeared for a large part of the series, especially when she was Park Min Young. I enjoyed the ‘bromance’ between Young Hoon (Seung-Joon) and Sun Woo, but it wasn’t as strong as Sun Woo’s own story arc and his ‘relationship’ with fate/the incense sticks.

On a final note, I would say this series came at a very timely moment for me when I was looking for a show that would stimulate me intellectually and impress me with its intelligence. I have found most of the shows thus far in 2017 entertaining, but not impressive in terms of writing and plotting. I’m hoping Tunnel becomes the show that achieves that. Nine far surpassed my expectations and it’s made me look forward to Sung Jae Jung and Kim Byung Soo’s next collaboration. I’ve enjoyed all their series together thus far, and after watching this, QIHM and W Two Worlds, I’d have to say Nine is the best piece of work. W Two Worlds was arguably more ambitious than Nine in terms of what it was trying to do both creatively and thematically, and I’d argue that had a greater emotional hook and fleshed out its key characters more thoroughly. However, in terms of overall structuring and tightness of writing, Nine beats both shows hands down for its sheer complexity and coherence. I will definitely be recommending this show to anyone who wants to watch a great k-drama!

Innocent Defendant Episode 9


For all the flaws in the writing of the show – both in terms of the plot and the characterisation of Min Ho, I have to say I’m really really enjoying the performances of both Ji Sung and Uhm Ki-Joon and they play off each other extremely well in this episode.

Ji Sung’s performance as the tormented, floundering Jeong Woo has been compelling and engaging thus far, but I enjoy his performance of Jeong Woo pretending to be crazy and out of his mind even better. What’s even more perfect is how he overplays it in such a frenzied and exaggerated manner that those of us who’ve seen him actually break down can tell the difference, but not Min Ho. We also learn get an explanation regarding Jeong Woo’s repeated loss of memory – it happens when he recovers all his memories because of his desire to protect himself. It’s not the best explanation in light of what’s been going on because I always thought Min Ho had a role to play in ensuring Jeong Woo lost his memories – wasn’t that why he kept arranging for Jeong Woo to be sent to the prison cell?

Min Ho is vicious as always and we finally get to see what happened on the night of Ji Soo’s murder. The act of him pausing before stabbing Ji Soo and then changing to his left hand was so devious, creepy and shocking at the same time. In prison, he truly turns on his manipulative prowess, provoking Jeong Woo in such cruel ways by firstly pretending to perform a scene from a play which is actually Ji Soo’s last words, and then bringing Ha Yeon to prison. I loved how sharp and smart Jeong Woo was in both those instances, especially when Min Ho acted out Ji Soo’s last words. He indeed lost control of himself and wanted to get Min Ho, but realised that he needed a decoy to divert Min Ho’s attention hence he pretends to be angry instead over his bread.

Beneath Min Ho’s deviousness is a huge sense of insecurity as we witness a nightmare of his with Jeong Woo strangling him. He’s grappling at all ways to regain control over Jeong Woo and his condition; while he is able to use his power to manipulate the prison warden to put Jeong Woo in a separate prison, it is in the area of psychological warfare that he loses out to Jeong Woo because if there’s anything we’ve seen from Jeong Woo’s time in prison, we know that he’s not just smart, but also very mentally strong and determined. I found his act of stopping himself from seeing Ha Yeon very admirable, because it showed how he could see in the long term and overcome his most heartfelt desire to be with his daughter, so as to ensure she’s safe. While not explicitly mentioned, Seong Kyu’s previous visit must also have given Jeong Woo a sense of assurance that Seong Kyu is protecting and keeping Ha Yeon safe, hence he cannot do anything now to jeopardise that situation.

We’ve had a little less focus on Jun-Hyuk and Eun-Hye recently, but I’m glad Eun-Hye is proving her worth in the short appearances she has. This time, she manages to spot a key detail even before Jeong Woo tells her about it, which is that two knives were missing from the kitchen and not one. I’m keen to see the latest development of Min Ho getting Eun-hye to defend him and am wondering what he has up his sleeves. Now that Jun-Hyuk has heard Ha Yeon’s voice, I’m sure that will prompt him to take more action, but that also potentially means his promotion and career could be on the line, since he was so resolute in putting Jeong Woo behind bars. Will he finally make the right choice this time?

Besides the Jeong Woo-Min Ho drama that we got in this episode, I also enjoyed the brief insights we got into the struggles of the Cha family, especially the scene between Min Ho’s dad and mum at the altar of Seon Ho. They know the truth but the tension they face is genuine as revealing the truth would mean they lose both sons and also means the whole reputation of the family goes down the drain. We see Yeon Hee increasingly losing her nerves too and becoming increasingly frazzled when she remembers Jennifer Lee’s cry before dying. How long will she be able to keep up the pretence before she breaks down completely?

I’m glad to hear of the two episode extension, because I feel there’s much scope to flesh out some of the relationships that may not be critical for the main storyline, but useful nonetheless. Of particular interest would be Min Ho’s relationship with his mum over the years, and also with Yeon Hee. It’d be nice if we got clearer sense of Min Ho’s gradual downfall over the years to the cold-hearted murderer that he is right now. I don’t necessarily need him to be softened or redeemed as a villain, but at least it’d be nice to see him humanised so that we understand how he became who he is today.

Nonetheless, in spite of certain plotholes, I’m really enjoying this drama because we see two equally intelligent, capable protagonists continually trying to outsmart each other. Now that Min Ho knows that Jeong Woo remembers, one has to wonder what his next step is going to be.

Innocent Defendant Episodes 3 & 4


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!

Legend of the Blue Sea – Finale


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.

Missing Nine Episode 2


“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.

My wife is having an affair this week: Finale

The series ends off on a happy note for most of our relationships and even for the forum users as some of their lives have moved on towards a positive trajectory. Yet, amidst the happiness of the ending, I felt a sense of dissatisfaction at the issues that were glossed over and swept under the carpet.

Yoon-ki and Ara’s relationship has generally been poorly handled and just as I saw a glimmer of hope in the previous episode, this episode blew it all to bits again. Once again, there’s such excess to their storyline – earlier on, it was too much philandering scenes and now, we have too much revenge scenes. Did we really need to get so many scenes of Yoon-ki’s pathetic state post-divorce, or so many scenes of violence from Ara? Instead of the revenge sequences, which were downright cruel, I would have rather had some proper conversations between Ara and Yoon-ki, or even Yoon-ki with Hyun Woo or Joon-Young, reflecting on his actions and his state now. Certainly reconciliation is not on the cards and would be unrealistic, but greater exploration of their emotional journey would certainly have been more meaningful.

And then we have Joon Young and Bo Young’s storyline, which has always been the spark of the series. The two of them are downright cute together and have such great chemistry. They have so many touching and humorous moments – squabbling over the baby’s name, Bo Young moving into Joon-Young’s place and seeing the most sweet little nursery set up by Joon Young. I loved the scene where Bo Young walks around the house and uncovers all the photos of himself that Joon Young has hidden throughout. The core of their relationship in this episode centres around the baby girl and how they’ll handle it; however, the finale fails to explore what this whole issue means for both of them as divorcees. Didn’t Bo Young mention in the previous episode that she was not ready for a relationship again? What happened then to let her believe she was ready? How about Joon Young – he has certainly fallen into his role as a daddy very quickly – isn’t that a very big step ahead? How does he know that he’s ready as both a husband and a daddy? To expect answers to these may be requesting for too much, but I was hoping these would at least be touched upon. Ultimately, the pregnancy seems to have come a way to push them together towards the end.

Saving the best for last, we have Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon. When we started off the episode with her typing in the forum, I was hoping we’d get some insights into how she had grown, rather than a summary of what we had already seen in the past 11 episodes. And that’s precisely what we get – we hear of how over-stretched she was, how the affair gave her an outlet, and how she’s been a bad wife to Hyun Woo. She ends with the realisation that she has been a selfish wife and that all along, her husband has been holding on to her. There’s no sense that she’s intending to do anything with that realisation. Even after she sees him with another woman, she doesn’t make an attempt to hold on to him, and instead, calls him and says they should stop being sorry for each other, and be happy in their own lives.

Her phone call leads Hyun Woo to the realisation that he’s been too focused on the past and what has happened. He now has found the courage to leave all that’s happened in the past and not care about the wife that’s cheated on him, because what’s most important is “her, it’s her”, emphasising the wife that he sees before himself right now. He expresses hope that she too can let go of the past “him”, the person who was “foolish and lame”. And we see him walking across the zebra crossing to reach out to her, symbolising his attempt once again not to let go of her. While I understand him letting go of the past, I don’t understand why he sees the need for her to forget the “foolish and lame” him, because he evidently displayed growth from the moment of realising about the affair until the decision to divorce. He certainly gives himself too little credit and I believe even Soo Yeon saw his growth. This has led me to realise that the series is ultimately not about how a couple handles with adultery, but really with how a husband handles it when his wife cheats on him, which is honestly a tad disappointing.

I still admire this show very much for its courage in tackling such a tough issue and exploring the darkest, toughest corners of it. It’s been a hard-hitting and raw journey from start to end, especially for Hyun Woo. There were many moments throughout where the show caused me to seriously reflect on my own marriage and how I would respond to a similar setting. This show has been powerful in all the forums and discussion boards as well, causing people to open up and share their very personal stories. Regardless of how I feel about the finale, the journey of watching this show has been an extremely enriching and unique one and I’ve really enjoyed all the discussions of it. Perhaps the ending is left deliberately open for us to continue that dialogue about what it will take for Hyun Woo to Soo Yeon to rebuild their marriage again. It will certainly be long journey ahead, requiring both of them to work at it.

As we end the series, I’d also like to thank all who’ve commented on my blog, either through comment boards or on the entries itself. I’ve enjoyed talking about the show and discussing our views about marriage. This is a topic I personally feel passionate about and this show was timely as I wanted to watch a drama that dealt with marriage and not just dating and romance. In that aspect, the show certainly exceeded my expectations as it took a very realistic look at marriage in such an engaging and creative manner. Big thanks to the cast and crew of the show for making this so enjoyable!