Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mid-January Drama Watches

I didn't think 2015 will be any different to 2014 since mostly no expectations. But turns out, it's been fantastic so far! So fantastic that I almost lose footing to everything else going on around me. I usually write first impressions of my watching (most of the time), but since there are a few really good ones I've been watching, might as well talk about it in one post. I’ll tell my story in chronological order, since it makes the most sense that way.

First up is Valid Love. I actually watched the premiere week and reported my thoughts here. I didn't know anything about this drama at all when I started watching. But my interest was piqued when I saw this photo.

Yeah, how can you not want to watch something that has that? Now, the premise was a bit iffy. Illy is a married woman who also has a lover on the side. There were no few people that was turned off by that on top of other sensitive issues. The first week was whatever; it was purely introductory. I left it on the sidelines since I needed to finish completed dramas for the 2014 recap. Now that that’s over, I got back to it. And can I say, what a pleasantly nice drama this is. The initial premise made Illy the bad guy for cheating on her husband (doesn't help that the narrator is him).

But within the 12 episodes that I've watched, we got to see that, in what could sound as completely outrageous, she deserves her second man. This drama isn't just talking about affairs, as I was wont to believe in the initial episodes. There's a whole complexity surrounding Illy and her journey to finding her own meaning of love and happiness. I'm quite impressed with the topics that's been brought on, especially on social expectations regarding marriage, love and family. I'm also happy to report that the tone is very introspective and smart, not veering into unnecessary dramatics even when it seems like it would. Out of the three, it really is the mellowest drama I'm watching right now, even when it seems like it would be the most dramatic. But it's also the one that's been providing some of the best acting through Lee Si-young and Uhm Tae-woong. Great stuff, this drama.

Next up is the glorious Kill Me Heal Me. When 2015 decided it will be the year of psychiatry, my eyes rolled at least twice around my head. Of all things, dramaland decides to pick up one of the most difficult fields to be its yearly muse. They risk of not only inaccurately portraying a disorder, but even delve to the mock/condescending realm which I’m sure will get lots of hate. Of the three that were airing in the beginning of the year, Kill Me is the one I’m most afraid of. There were three changes in the casting process and filming started only a month before its scheduled premiere. Not a recipe for success. On top of that, they were being extremely ambitious with the addition of 7 personalities and a bipolar psychiatrist on top of that. It’s what I call a train wreck in the making. It’s also why I decided to watch.

To my surprise (and many others too), Kill Me is one fantastic show. If you expected something like It’s Okay That’s Love, you will be extremely disappointed. The two are different beasts altogether. The lead is supposed to have Dissociated Identity Disorder, but I’m pretty sure he swallowed toxic poison instead ala comic book heroes. Do-hyun is less Sybil and more Jekyll-Hyde/Bruce Banner-Hulk. And I’m not complaining. DID is a confusing mental disorder even within the psychiatric community. If not taken with great care, it could become disastrous. Kill Me decided to leave pretensions out the door and just run with it. The story is knee deep in crazy and it seems like they're not planning to leave any time soon. I'm expecting for a disaster, which I'm sure will come sooner than later, but in the mean time, I'm enjoying all the fun.

Particular mention must be made for Ji Sung who has to deal with 7 essentially different characters. I haven’t watched him in anything outside of Protect the Boss (which I ended up dropping), but after this, consider me a fan. You know you’re a capable actor when you can shoot different wavelength of light beams out of your eyes for every different character you do. It’ll be interesting to see how Kill Me will compare with the Hyun Bin lead Hyde, Jekyll, and Me. Hyun Bin actually dropped Kill Me for Hyde so we’ll actually get to see whether or not he made the right decision. Teasers are out for that and it looks like a pretty standard rom-com. Then again, Kill Me's teaser looked like this and I thought it was doomed to fail. Trailers can be misleading.

Last but not least is the pièce de résistance, the drama that will make us all suffer in our shriveling bodies, it’s Healer. Freaking Healer. This drama is just beyond, I had to marathon it over the course of two days (I wish it was one, but I had work the next morning). It's amazing how each week, Healer manages to get better and better, something of a rarity in the world of K-dramas. Every new episode reveals a bit more of the mystery but adds even more questions to the list of many things we didn't even know. And that's only the mystery aspect of the drama! Healer has succeeded in blending multiple genres, from aforementioned mystery, to thriller, to romance. They even got the office/career genre right.

I'd like to think the biggest pull is my spirit animal Ji Chang-wook who plays the titular Healer, a courier who deals with high-risk deliveries for the elite. But then there's Yoo Ji-tae who makes his Kim Moon-ho a character I can never put my finger on. Park Min-young, who has never blown me away, even performed well as the spunky rookie reporter Chae Young-shin. On top of that, the stories have been engaging and interesting every step of the way. With every new episode, it always makes me think this is how a drama is supposed to be written. I have yet to see a misstep, so kudos to them.

The testament of their success will all be down to how well they can execute their ending. Based on the progress so far, I'm optimistic. The third act is usually where most dramas begin to waver. But I'll reach out my hope for this drama the best ending it could give itself. Sadly though the drama isn't really getting a lot of buzz in Korea which sucks! Because it seems to get a lot of enthusiasm from the international community. Or is this what usually happens with thriller-esque dramas in Korea? Do they not enjoy it that much? Oh well. Nothing to complain when the drama is so good.

So far, 2015 has been proving itself to be good. I'm remaining optimistic that the best isn't clumped in the beginning and we'll get some more great stuff later on in the year. Like maybe that new season of Reply might be good. Who knows. We'll see.

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