Awaken (2020 - 21) Episodes 11 and 12

If you haven't watched the show or think that this is best thing since deep fried chicken... it might be best to give this post a miss.

Once in a while I ask myself why I'm still watching this show. But of course they're merely rhetorical questions. I know why I'm still faithfully... following it six weeks later despite the myriad of issues I'm having with it. It's in part for Namgoong Min, the laid back, somewhat reluctant superhero who has a penchant for lollipops (and now we know why as well) and spots a moustache. I am grateful for his newfound relationship with the moustache. It has come in handy during those moments when I want some kind of distraction from Seol Hyun's dazed, bewildered looks. It's obvious she does nothing for me performance wise and Gong Hye-won is, for the most part, a non-essential addition to the drama. I'm glad that the so-called love line between Hye-won and Jung-woo hasn't amounted to much. Plus it plays badly when the matter comes up.

Needless to say I am also persisting for the mad scientists plot. I'm fond of my sci-fi (the nuttier, the better) and it's a change from the time slip crime dramas that have graced our screens all year. They've established (and sledgehammered us over the head) with the fact that unconscionable men and women were doing highly immoral experiments on orphaned children 28 years ago on an island. And they still are in some secret location as the original White Night Village is now in ruins.

Sometimes I wish this show was outright terrible so I can drop it like a hot potato with no compunction. But when there's progress in the plot, I cave immediately. And then there's Namgoong Min with his cynical smirk to contend with. When the show has these flashes of almost-brilliance, I feel like weeping because the feeling that it could be so much more never leaves me. The ideas are all there but the plotting needs a firmer hand.

In recent episodes the unhinged woman who called the shots in the old days has re-emerged, still calling the shots apparently. Choi Hyun-chee has evidently discovered the fountain of youth. She hasn't aged in the slightest so one can safely presume that she's injecting herself with something other botox to stave off the inevitable wrinkles. It seems to be the case too that the Chief Secretary of the Blue House, Oh Jung-hwan is popping pills to deal with his dermatological issues. Obviously the Foundation mob appropriated the anti-ageing formula that Jung-woo's younger self worked out all those years ago except that he left out a few crucial details because he caught on that these were Really Bad People.

The third kid, Moon Jae-woong is apparently throwing an almighty tantrum against the world. Hence the serial murders by proxy. He is doing away with individuals who are/were connected with the White Night Foundation. It's old fashioned revenge. The tantrum also includes Jamie and Jung-woo. Apparently they cruelly left him behind except that they didn't really. He's either mis-remembered or has selectively remembered the events of the night they left the island. Or put a different spin on it. I still don't know if he has psionic powers but what's clear is that he is inducing lucid dreams using drugs and the watches are just a reminder or trigger for the victims to act according to his schedule.

Jamie has lately been relegated to being a recurring character or an extended cameo. Which is odd anyway you look at it. Considering that she is one of the the Three Survivors, her screen time seems absurdly paltry. Things are slightly better in Episode 12 for her. She's finally off to the island with the loud-mouth broadcaster to regain her memories and help us all the piece the puzzle together. I'm not sure why they bothered with the rain scenes in Episode 11. On hindsight it seems suspiciously like the show was trying to stall time so that all three of them could be on the island at the same time so that we could have the Big Confrontation. For Jung-woo to do his "hail Mary" also before the cliffhanger ending.

The so-called Special Team or what's left of it is now demoted to the status of comic relief. I wonder why they bother. That said, they did make some small contribution in Episode 12 to saving a life and turning tables on Son Min-ho so that Jung-woo can be elsewhere. I'm also unsure as to why Hye-won happen to burst into the room at the right time to overhear a conversation when she's already resigned especially after her big speech about being disillusioned with the government. But I guess she just can't stay away and her timing is impeccable.

Sadly the women in this show are just not that well-written or well-utilized. We probably didn't need two female leads because it's increasingly obvious that they will remain largely underdeveloped. In the end, my feeling is that they are people in Jung-woo's life. Bystanders in his war against the evil Foundation.

Episode 12 was somewhat better. Things at least felt like they were chugging along, rather than the drama rehashing old ground. Yes, I get that the drama is attempting perspectival storytelling on some level but it doesn't do it nearly as well as many other dramas. In that regard I've been spoilt by better made dramas so I tend to find the pacing of this one rather slow. Frankly, the drama could have easily been achieved in 12 episodes.

I wonder what Kim Min-jae (another survivor from the first cohort) will do now that he knows about the continuing experiments on kids. He seems to have a conscience and he's had his time as a lab rat. Of course not everyone is naturally inclined towards heroism even if they're having pangs of guilt. It is however, pretty appalling how the power that be think about the "test subjects" and dispose of them.

Drugs seem to be a recurring motif in this drama. Whether they be experimental, prescribed or for recreational use... popped, sucked or force fed... it is a common thread. Whatever the show is trying to say, it's true to say that we are such a drug-dependant world. There's a ready-made panacea for everything including ageing it would seem. No wonder Big Pharma is raking in the big bucks. I can't help feeling though that often we'd rather take a pill than do the hard work of eating properly and exercising regularly (also thinking about Run On here with Mi-joo's supplements) or accept the limitations of being human. Science is a great tool but in the wrong hands, it is an unmitigated human disaster in the making.