My Week in Dramas 12 September 2023
My recent output on this blog corresponds with the fact that I’ve been taking a break from life nursing a rather bad cold. So I made good use of my subscriptions and binge-watched a few things.
The First Responders Part 2 was a mixed bag. Perhaps that could be said about the entire series. Occasionally it’s a half decent police procedural with good teamwork and other times it’s an over-the-top blow things up orgy. It’s a nutty show calculated to give an adrenaline shot. At the end of the day it’s all about making statements in a raucous manner as much as possible. I don’t mind character deaths as a rule but I insist that they be done properly. The problem with this writer is that he/she takes short cuts particularly by firstly making the lead protagonist (Kim Rae-won) “Jindo Dog” a loose cannon type that hurtles into everything with his eyes shut. That’s pretty standard. But one loose cannon in a show is enough. It becomes tiresome when everyone else of any consequence in the story starts to follow his lead and get hurt or dead in the process. I resign myself to the fact that it’s show driven by plot contrivances but the way safety protocols are flouted especially in this second half seems more egregious than ever. The romance was okay — didn’t hate it, didn’t love it but the best thing about it is that it didn’t get in the way of the main storyline either. In keeping with the rest of the show the Big Bad was also on the insane side with his skill set and schemes. He’s hard to take seriously because he’s pretty much a cookie cutter mad scientist who is over competent and ubiquitous to the point of silliness.
These days almost everything is conveniently a superhero show. Even police procedurals.
This show reminds me of those Saturday cartoons that my kids used to watch when they were little except with more violence. The fun factor was high. The kids imbibe some fun facts (in this case it’s biochemistry and physics) but after a while the stakes escalates to new and impossible heights, you know nothing too terrible is going to happen to the hero of the story because he has plot armour.
Memorist (2020) also features yet another maverick cop whose excuse for misbehaving is that he can read people’s memories by touching them. It upsets him so much that he can’t help himself but entangle himself in all kinds of situations much to the chagrin of the higher ups. Yoo Seung-ho and Lee Se-young star in this 16-episode mostly watchable police procedural that abandons all notion of procedure as the show goes further down the beaten track. The only thing that makes this all vaguely credible is the fact that it’s a superhero story with revenge elements. The premise is interesting enough and while plot twists have their place, too much of it feels like chewing leather rather than steak. It covers the same ground as Miraculous Brothers and Blind — rich people behaving badly and getting away with it. The storytelling is certainly better than Blind although like the aforementioned projects it out stays its welcome. Yoo Seung-ho plays the mind-reading police officer while Lee Se-young is the organization’s top prodigy specializing in criminal profiling. They are destined to butt heads at the start but eventually have to collaborate to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. The set-up is and pay-off is fine but some might find the Big Reveal of the show’s mastermind to be somewhat anticlimactic. I didn’t. But by the time you finish this rollercoaster ride of who’s who protracted by kinds of red-herrings, the guy you’ve put your money on might not be the one.
This is one time I wish there had been a romance between the leads.
I’m still not sure what was so controversial about the ending of My Dearest. I will get to blogging about the last four episodes of Part 1 at some point but I thought Episode 10 was an unsurprising conclusion to the first phase of the show, The Gone With the Wind comparisons notwithstanding. It’s definitely horrendously heartbreaking for Jeong-hyun (Namgoong Min) but with everything going against him — timing, a jealous and spiteful offsider as well as Gil-chae’s (Ahn Eun-jin) home situation — he was bound to be on the losing end at this point in the story. It was his choice to go to Shenyang with the crown prince. It was a business decision that paid off eventually but in a zero sum game world, there would come at a cost to him in other ways. If he had been more rational like he usually is, he would have understood the pragmatic decision that she took to prioritise her family.
It’s a fantastic series and I can’t wait for Part 2. All sageuks should be written with this kind of tragic vision of the world especially when set during tumultuous times. Romance shouldn’t be easy and it shouldn’t have to follow overused tropes that have no place in a story like this.
Out of sheer curiosity I took a look at A Time Called You. Not sure if it’s a good idea with Someday or One Day still so fresh in my mind. Honestly, it’s not a bad show if you’ve never seen the original and have nothing to compare it with. The cinematography is lovely and Jeon Yeo-bin is quite good. From the little I’ve seen of it, it is a very faithful shot-by-shot “remake”. So faithful that it immediately invites comparison.
For me it’s definitely missing something. I don’t even consider Someday any kind of flawless masterpiece and the problems are noticeable right out of the blocks. It doesn’t have the idiosyncratic energy of Someday. In fact it’s strangely ponderous. Maybe it’s the PD showcasing his artistic bent. Or maybe it’s the director’s way of building an ominous atmosphere as if high school Jeon Yeo-bin isn’t doing enough to convey that on her own. While she’s doing a fine job with the dual roles, I don’t think the acting overall is impressing that much. Ahn Hyeo-seop is so-so. Not as strong in the adult scenes. Kang Hoon is surprisingly bland. Moreover I’m not sensing a lot of chemistry among the main trio. It’s a beautiful but clinical production while the original is raw and charming.
Hidden Love is turning out to be a much harder watch than I initially thought. It’s not really something I can binge watch because the show goes in cycles of good, mediocre and indifferent. I’m also not buying the storytelling even if I’m normally amenable to slice-of-life. Obviously there are things to like about a low conflict family oriented show. When the show first aired, there was a lot of controversy surrounding it. It turned out to be a storm in a teacup and in fact gave the show more publicity than it would have otherwise gotten. According to detractors the issue lay with the male lead’s attitude towards the younger female lead. His behaviour could be interpreted as grooming. Or so the accusation goes. So far I don’t see a problem. At least not from how his character is written. He is very careful not to cross lines and keeps to his boundaries. Even when she was being bullied, he informed her brother and got him to resolve the issue. There’s no doubt that he treats her like a younger sister in these early days. However, the storytelling whatever the intent seems to be such that her thoughts seem to be consumed with him to the point where it feels troubling to an observer like me particularly because she’s traipsing off to his hometown without warning. Of course she gets a good scolding from him (and her own brother) for showing up unannounced and mouthing off about an older guy she met online. Her perception of him and her relationship to him tends to give me pause.
It’s a double-edged sword the way the foundations of this romance is set up.
The Killing Vote looks promising but one episode a week is a bit of a hard ask. I know I know we’ve been spoilt with how K dramas have been broadcast traditionally but if I put it to one side to binge later it means I might forget that this even existed. And yet it seems I’ve been waiting for reunion between Park Hae-jin and Park Sung-woong forever. Although it sounds like it has been inspired by The Devil Judge, it really is quite a different animal. It reminds me more of a couple of recent Taiwanese dramas that I saw earlier in the year particularly Copycat Killer.
Park Hae-jin’s character is a cop in a hurry. So much so that he’s willing to cut corners and plant evidence to get his man. His goal it seems to me is to rise up through the ranks ASAP so that he can get access to a case that happened years earlier. Im Ji-yeon most recently seen in The Glory works in the cybercrime department and becomes entangled with the killing vote hype when she stumbles onto footage where a masked individual rants about injustice. The two are forced to collaborate when some loony who thinks that he/she’s a vigilante establishes a means for any citizen above the age of 18 to vote on whether a perpetrator that has managed to elude justice so far should get the death penalty. I’ve watched about 2 and a half episodes and I’m intrigued about the mastermind behind this online kangaroo court.
The last couple of episodes of the One Piece live action were probably the best. I’ve always liked Nami’s arc and the show did it justice albeit truncated. I even accepted the presence of Garp in the first season. It moved along nicely and showcased some good teamwork among the newly formed Straw Hat crew. I think the reason why this live action adaptation works so well compared to others that have tried and died is because despite the changes they made, they captured the spirit and energy of the original to a large extent. The goofy madness and cheesy declarations came across as sincere and likeable rather than contrived.
I’m looking forward to the next season especially if Smoker is to be added to the ensemble.
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