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My Week in Dramas 22 July 2023
Delightfully Deceitful wrapped up decently despite the plod all the way to the finishing line. Like The Good Bad Mother from earlier in the year, it had a trial to close up the “revenge” plot but unlike The Good Bad Mother, there were two trials which actually made sense and gave the resolution a satisfying feel. The bad guy got caught and people who broke the law to catch him had to answer for it. Makes sense. But these days even in fiction common sense seems to be in short supply.
Nevertheless all my criticisms from last week apply still. It was a show that had far too many moving parts and more characters than it needed. It’s certainly debatable whether Kim Dong-wook’s character was needed but taking the story holistically, I’d give a resounding “yes”. Not only because he was the moral compass for the show but because he epitomizes the intervention that breaks the cycle of crime that’s part of the messaging. Criminals, are often, made not born. Someone needs to care enough to meet them halfway. Take the risk of establishing trust. Part of the reason why the show feels bogged down by exposition is because it isn’t just a revenge story. It’s clearly a finger-wagging exercise against an unjust system that keeps those from underprivileged families from reaching their potential. The youngsters who fell into crime were victims of academic hubris and exploitation by powerful adults. That’s the point of this show. Not the actual revenge against the shadowy “president”. The revenge is merely a stepping stone to showcase the evils of an unjust social structure driven by corporatist greed. Of course the show is careful not to condone vigilantism which is where Kim Dong-wook’s character steps in. He is the face of the law. All that is good about it. Or all that can be used for good.
I don’t have all the hang-ups about See You in My 19th Life the way other people seem to because for me reincarnation is a mythological narrative structure that is used to make sense of evil and suffering in the world. It’s a fantasy trope about punishment and second chances. At least it’s used in that regard in a lot of fiction. Ban Ji-eum is a continuation of the late Ju-won. She is Ju-won in a different body. Unlike her previous existence much of Ban Ji-eum’s existence on earth is about reuniting with Ju-won’s loved ones. She was practically obsessed about keeping her promise to Seo-ha especially. She did everything she could to get close to Seo-ha even to the point of becoming a car engineer and working at the hotel. She had not done this previously because a) she was in a different country b) she was a different gender. It seemed to her anyway that fate was on her side in that regard. Obviously there are ominous portents about her revealing her greatest secret to the people around her. It’s also true to say that her relationship with Seo-ha was never equal to begin with even with the 2 year gap.
I’m relieved that they chose not to keep the identity of the perpetrator behind the accident the biggest mystery of the show. Especially as it was becoming more obvious who it was in the lead up to the reveal. Of course this doesn’t preclude the fact that there could be someone else behind him/her and he’s doing some good o’l fashion cover-up. Somehow I doubt that because the primary mystery seems to be how all these people are linked in her first life.
Not bad. I’ve made it to Episode 26 of Fireworks of My Heart. Thankfully scenes with the devouring mother has been limited of late. After a while the gaslighting becomes unbearable especially when it’s obvious that she’s not raising objections to the leads being together because she’s doing it for their good. She’s a woman with an ego and an agenda. She’s far too used to having her own way and her relationships with those around her are all largely based on her terms. Her wealth has enabled all that. Things have worked out for her so far. But pride goes before a fall. Any relationship that’s not based on accommodation and negotiation inevitably becomes tyrannical.
After all the push and pull, it feels almost underwhelming that the leads are now officially dating. There’s certainly no doubting the chemistry but it’s the downside of a slowburn that is riddled with complexities that are a combination of external forces and internal rumblings. It is understandable why Xu Qin might have reservations about jumping back into Song Yan’s arms in all readiness but the problem up to the point she takes that leap, she is wanting her cake and eat it too. She was honest about it but she was being unfair to Song Yan wanting to have a foot in the door while being non committal.
Despite the obvious propaganda and literal flag waving, what I appreciate most is the unabashed celebration of everything that is good about men. Given the kind of world that we live in currently and the kind of depictions that we’ve become accustomed to, it’s always a breath of fresh air when healthy masculinity is being celebrated in relationship to a high risk profession like firefighting. It is surprising to me that firefighters do as much as they do but are largely taken for granted. Thankfully they don’t have to risk their lives as much as is shown in this drama but when they do they have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. It’s not without consequences as we know from those who return from war. The show makes a point of delving into PTSD in the aftermath of an earthquake. It is helpful that it acknowledges that suffering mental health issues from an event of this magnitude is a possibility. It’s all part of being human and not everyone reacts to tragedy in the same way.
My two favourites in this current season would have to be Revenant and Shadow Detective S2. I’ve come to realise that I should go back to a formula that worked so well in the past — stick with genre-based shows that go under most people’s radar. Fortunately I like my thrillers although I can watch pretty much anything that’s got a decent script. But even a decent script seems to be a hard ask these days. Moreover, what’s more elusive is good plotting. Apparently from the comments that I see online, it’s clear that I’m less forgiving of bad plotting than most. My opinion is that if you are asking people to invest hard earned coin and time to watch your offerings, you should make the effort with the plot at the very least. To me good ideas aren’t enough. Neither is a good premise. Nor attractive actors. Surely execution has to matter? What I see in Revenant and Shadow Detective are two shows that are meticulous about plotting. I wouldn’t say that they’re both perfect but the juggling act is good. And compared to a lot of stuff out there, it might even be said to be masterful.
Lately I’ve been rewatching Signal which is arguably the most acclaimed of Kim Eun-hee’s screenplays. I had recommended it to a friend who is a fan of Frequency and then embarked on my fourth watch. I was struck again by how intricate the plotting was but also how much the characters actually drive the plot for what is a rather complex storyline. Revenant, on the other hand, is a less convoluted piece of plotting but definitely character driven. At Episode 9, the disparate pieces are finally coming together. It isn’t your usual police procedural because the bulk of the detective work is done by a couple of civilians who have been dragged into the fray unceremoniously. I think it’s the geek in me — I am ecstatic at seeing the inside of a library or an archive where the leads are poring over fraying documents that have yellowed over time. Or old dusty monographs containing black and white photos of another era. To me the entire supernatural angle is the least interesting aspect of this. Ghost X, Y or Z could be the perpetrator for all I care but it’s the human element that has my attention. Behind the angry spirit/s are vile human beings. Of course. We’ve already met some of them. We’ve also become acquainted with the depths of depravity they’ve sunk to in order to live in the lap of luxury or relative comfort.
There are a variety of ways to think about Revenant. One as a cautionary tale about the consequences of unbridled greed for the community. An insatiable greed that leads to all kinds of tragedy. Or a parable about the sins of one generation having consequences for subsequent ones. Or just an intriguing murder mystery involving seemingly intractable supernatural elements. It’s certainly good vs. evil and yet there’s more to it than that.
Just started on Miraculous Brothers and so far so good. I’m thinking sci-fi and superhero at this point. Viki needs to make haste with their subs. The other mob translates “God is Dead” as “The Almighty is Dead” which doesn’t have the same ring to it especially when it’s supposed to be an overt reference to Nietzsche.
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