Mystic Pop Up Bar (2020)

Moving on from Hospital Playlist will be a hard ask. For the last few weeks I have watched nothing else. So I'm planning to do is a rewatch of the entire series starting this weekend and then to do an episode by episode retrospective in this blog just to inject a bit of life back in here.

I made a start on Mystic Pop Up Bar yesterday and two episodes in, my verdict: it's a blast. To be honest, I'm not a fan of fantasy in general but I liked the sound of the premise and since it is being aired on Netflix, it wasn't going to cost me extra. I was aware that Hwang Jung-eun was in it but was pleasantly surprised to see Choi Won-yong as her off-sider. I've always had time for those two but Choi Won-yong especially. His performance in I Remember You is still one of my favourites from Kdramaland. Both are also known for the comedic turns. The young human that they're trying to recruit played by Yun Sung-jae seems to be holding his own among the veterans.

The premise sees HJE's character, Weol-ju, a budding shaman turned ghost, with the ability to enter into people's dreams being disciplined by supernatural powers-that-be because she had tried to take her own life by hanging herself a sacred tree. 500 hundred years later, she's still attempting to complete her mission of finding 100 000 humans to help resolve their grudges. I note the disclaimer at the start of the drama stressing that this drama is entirely fictional. That is I imagine because the world-building draws on a whole range of religious and non-religious traditions in hodge podge fashion.

From that the show clues us in to the fact that it doesn't take itself all that seriously. And yes, it is quite humorous.

Clearly Weol-ju has a rather short fuse but as the drama demonstrates repeatedly, despite the cantankerous displays, her heart is generally in the right place. Due to past experiences, she can't stand for injustice and comes down hard on those who abuse the vulnerable. Manager Gui is a nice balance to her shrewish side as the more reasonable less impulsive member of the team. The human that eventually comes to be part of this good-doing trio, Young Kang-bae, is a kindly customer service officer in a supermarket who eventually moonlights at the pop-up bar. He is eventually recruited for his uncanny ability to get people to open up and pour out their woes.

Even with the fantasy tag, the drama has all the makings of a superhero team-up -- a K version of the X-men or the Fantastic Four. All the "magic" stuff is more or less window dressing. A group of individuals using their respective abilities to help people with deep-seated issues. It's become immediately clear to me that this isn't about crime and punishment as it is about atonement and redemption. For Kang-bae this is about his coming to grips with his "gift". So far it has been a "curse" because he can't get close to anyone because he's a walking truth drug.