Our Long Yaks are getting the tiniest bit shorter. You get the drama reviews and discussions here, while news and upcoming gets its own episode under “What’s Up in Dramaland?”
Listen to the episode below!
Thanks to all our patrons for helping us realise some of our ideas!
Check out the planning notes for this month’s episode here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/making-of-yak-24378787
kfangurl’s article on Boyfriend/Encounter – https://thefangirlverdict.com/2019/01/19/dropped-boyfriend-encounter/
00:02:27 – Crowned Clown
00:12:30 – Sky Castle
00:22:59 – The Last Empress
00:31:48 – ref Crowned Clown
00:36:51 – My Strange Hero
00:45:12 – Boyfriend
00:56:02 – Top Star Yoo-baek
01:02:50 – Memories of the Alhambra
01:29:40 – Red Moon Blue Sun
01:36:38 – Master of Study
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Music: Fredji’s Happy Life and Endless Nights
Paroma: Hey hey, drama heads! Welcome back to another episode of the Long Yak. The first month of 2019 is already gone, and so are several of the dramas that we’ve been watching in the last few months. We give you our closing thoughts on some of these dramas…and major spoiler warning for the ending of Alhambra – we couldn’t help ourselves. If you want to skip that, the time stamps are below. We also discuss ongoing dramas that have defied expectations and stayed interesting in the second half – hello Last Empress. Now, normally after currently airing and completed dramas we move onto to discussing upcoming shows, but we decided that this segment needs a new home. We have been planning a monthly series called What’s Up in Dramaland for a while now, and because of the support of a few awesome patrons, we are finally starting to feel confident enough in this venture to produce this second monthly series.
What’s Up in Dramaland will cover industry news and speculations about upcoming dramas. This is something that we were already doing inside the long yaks, but the episodes started getting ridiculously long and crowded, so starting from this month expect the release of a different episode after the Long Yak. Now, if you have thoughts about this change or about some drama that we’ve discussed or missed out on, let us know in the comments or on Twitter @dramasoverflow or by emailing us at email@example.com – you guys know how much we love emails. This episode of Dramas Over Flowers is brought to you by our patron community – we welcome our newest patron Gracefulegg to the fold! We are extremely grateful for your support Gracefulegg – this is what is letting us dream bigger. If anyone else wants to take a look at our patron, please visit us at patron.com/dramasoverflowers – we are the ones with the bright orange motif. Okay, onwards to the episode…see you inside!
Saya: Hi everyone, this is Saya.
Anisa: This is Anisa.
Paroma: And this is Paroma, we are back with a new Yak – yay! Ok…so we are starting with currently airing. I don’t think we are watching a lot of the new batch of dramas yet, we’ve all been caught up in work and stuff and studies, but I am watching The Crowned Clown and I think Saya has started it too, right?
Saya: I’ve watched 25 minutes of the first episode, I tried to watch more but there was no time.
Paroma: Okay, that counts…at least you have an idea. We talked about it in the last Yak, I think we had expected something a little more light hearted or something more along the lines of Moonlight Drawn by Clouds – I thought it would be slightly more like that, but no this got dark really fast and the thing is that – you have these two characters – and usually with the prince and the pauper type of situation where you have like a…
Saya: Let me just quickly say this is Yeo Jin-goo playing a dual role as the crown prince turned king, I guess and he has a doppelganger – he is a doppelganger, right? I haven’t got that far yet…
Paroma: Yeah, absolutely. So he is playing a dual role, and he is completely amazing in it. The last time I watched him was in Circle, which Saya and I both loved, but I don’t know what he has done in between, but this – I think I like him even more here.
Saya: He did that time-travel drama. It had a really similar name…Reunited Worlds – there you go.
Paroma: Oh yeah, I kept intending to watch it and then not watching it.
Saya: And then you had sort of the general, disgruntlement of everyone watching it, like – okay, pass – but he’s good in it. But, to be fair, he’s good in everything – I haven’t seen a single thing he’s been bad in.
Paroma: I’ve only seen that one thing, but I have to say with Circle, his character was way more passive – it’s not – he was confused and conflicted most of the time he was on screen, but with Crowned Clown, he has such a range of emotions and opportunity to perform, he’s playing two diametrically opposite characters, but the real reason Crowned Clown, and I’ve watched the first three episodes, and these are long episodes – they are each over an hour (I think an hour and ten minutes), but you don’t feel the time passing, it’s so gripping and I hope it stays this way. It’s dark, legitimately really dark – in terms of how bad can a king be, not because he’s cruel and evil for the heck of it, but because he is weak and incompetent and easily manipulated. The drama quickly makes this point – they set up this historical context where they are like – a kingdom doesn’t need its king to be a good man, necessarily, but it does need the king to be strong, and the king on the seat here is not. It also doesn’t dismiss the king, he has a back story – there is a reason why he is the way he is.
And then you have this clown who comes from a much lower strata of society, but he of course doesn’t have the pressures that the king does, but he’s also powerless. Very early on the show establishes that this guy is fearful, but he’s hot tempered and whenever something happens that’s unjust he wants to get revenge, but he can’t because he’s a poor clown. But, fate decides to put him in a situation where he suddenly wields power. He’s still a puppet on other people’s terms, but he has power, and he can finally get the justice that he wants. So, It’s very interesting – because when the clown is playing the king, he doesn’t understand why the court behaves the way it does, for him the right thing to do is so simple, but then as he keeps sitting on the throne day after day, he starts realizing all the different pressures that controls the throne and the decisions that happen – but this is done so well – I am not used to Korean historicals actually having good court politics – I am stunned at how interesting it is. I know usually people love the action, but they completely switch off when it comes to court drama, but this is one of those dramas where I’m pretty sure that the audience is going to watch it because of the politics.
Anisa: Yeah, I usually don’t enjoy court politics, but the other one that I felt did a really good job with the king and his position and kind of the politics of what he was trying to do as a king was Tree With Deep Roots, I don’t know if you guys…
Saya: It’s on my watchlist.
Anisa: Oh my gosh, it’s so good. The cast is unbelievable.
Saya: Is Yeo Jin-goo in that?
Anisa: Song Joong-ki plays the young king, and there’s a famous older actor who plays him as an adult, but he plays King Sejong who created Hangul – he’s like a young genius, and you see how he like makes the language – it’s really interesting, especially if you are a language nerd. The villain is really good, and Jang Hyuk is in it too…but anyway I didn’t mean to go on a segue, but I found that the court machinations and all of that was also really compelling in that.
Paroma: Okay, but this drama so far is doing an amazing job of creating that – a realistic version of Joseon era life – not just for the rich and the royal, but also for the poor people. One of the reasons that the clown is initially forced into playing the doppelganger for the king, because of some reason that the king has, but eventually he goes back into the role. He runs away and he goes back into the role because of something that happens in his life and he wants justice, and usually – I can’t discuss this, but it’s something that will make me really mad – but a woman has to suffer to give him motive – which, we’ve talked about this before, the woman in the refrigerator trope is just overused. However, because of the context of the era, this kind of stuff used to happen a lot and there would be no justice because what would a poor person do whose family has been hurt, they would not be able to do a thing because of class politics – because of division in social strata, but here he can pretend to be the king and suddenly have power that he didn’t have before, and I like it, so that’s where I’m at.
Saya: Nice. I’m scared about watching more after what just happened in the bit I just watched. It was the worst, darkest possible thing…are we allowed to say?
Paroma: You would think, but the thing is it’s not the worst darkest possible thing and that is what makes this drama more gripping, because usually what would happen with K-dramas is the clown would come in and he would be kind to everyone and everyone would be like what happened to the hateful king, he became so nice, and then court would just flourish become really nice and everyone would become really nice and everyone would be happier, but that is not how it works. The clown goes in he tries to be nice and then because of the way court life works, he realizes that his simplistic point of view just doesn’t – is not going to make things perfect here. Things are more complicated – just because you’re good doesn’t mean that everybody around you will also be good. I like it because of the realism here, but also because how well the drama plays out him realizing that the world is bigger than what he knew, so yeah, it gets darker. I’m in the 4th episode now…
Saya: I just want to add one more thought to that before we move on…because you are describing – it reminds me a lot of, you know Ruler, Master of the Mask – the drama Yoo Seung-ho did last year or the year before last, the one where he plays – he’s a king, crown prince, and he has…not a doppelganger, but he wears a mask all the time, he plays the king’s body double – but that kind of – Yoo Seung-ho did that really well, but the rest of the drama wasn’t that great, so it sounds like this is a better, revised take on the same kind of idea which I’m quite excited by actually.
Anisa: Ok, so me and Paroma have been watching SKY Castle.
Paroma: I just started watching it, I think Anisa is far ahead of me by now…
Anisa: So I want to hear your thoughts since you haven’t watched as much, and then I’ll give you my thoughts…
Paroma: I don’t know – the first episode was okay – it was – I couldn’t figure out what was so amazing about this drama, why people were so happy with it, and then episode – I think it was at the end of episode one when things kind of went insane and amazing, because what I thought was like a staid parent versus academics, moralizing preachy drama, suddenly became more complex – more of a human drama. I really like how there are different families with different family dynamics, so it is not like a sort of a one note thing where you have this one set of parents pressuring their child to study and the child not being able to cope under that pressure – there are layers. I like how they are exploring the parent side of things which pretty much never happens. I was just thinking that all of the other schools that we’ve watched the dramas School 2013, School 2017, Sassy Go Go, even Bok Soo, they are more about how the students go against the establishment or against the parents – that is usually how the story plays out.
Saya: With the exception of Angry Mom.
Paroma: With the exception of the Angry Mom. So we are usually on the side of the students, right? Looking sort of up towards…they’ve completely shifted it – most of what we’ve seen in this drama is not the kid’s perspective, the kids are very important element, but the primary perspective is the parents and their myriad motivations, so yeah – so far it is interesting – I don’t understand how it supposedly gets more gripping though.
Anisa: So, I watched a little over 6 episodes…I actually watched a couple more yesterday with my sister – me and her are watching it together – we felt the same way. The first episode was kind of boring, everybody was really unpleasant, what’s so great about this show – and then right at the end of the first episode, when that event happens, that kind of throws everyone for a loop and turns everything upside down in the neighborhood – we are just past episode 6, and things keep happening, and normally we would be like, this is getting too dramatic, but my sister and I were saying that it works so well, so like on a certain level it’s sort of over the top and on another level, because it’s a satire and it’s a black comedy, it can deal with really dark, heavy things, and in those moments you can feel the impact of those things, like for example, the things that happen to these people and their families – it deals with some pretty intense topics that I don’t want to spoil, but the serious stuff that people deal with in their real lives, but there’s also some really great moments of just humor that comes from the characters, and these veteran actors are really killing it. And like you said, they do focus on the parents, and so you get these moments – Yoon Se-ah is my favorite, she has – she plays the mom of the twins, twins who are – there is one family that has this really brilliant daughter that is basically a psychopath – she’ll do anything, and her mom will do anything – they are a set – both of them, and then there is this other family who – the father is this really smart and controlling law professor and he was played by the evil ghost in Goblin, I don’t remember the actor’s name –
Paroma: Oh, I forgot who it was! The evil eunuch, right?
Anisa: He’s so good, he’s so creepy. And his wife is played by Yoon Se-ah – and she’s so good – but she always plays this – she just wants the best for her kids, and she doesn’t like the way that her husband is so suffocating and patriarchal and dominating – she is the only one in this neighborhood that has a soul. [laughs] She has these quiet moments of rebellion, she makes these comments sometimes, and we would just cheer because she’s just so smart and funny – and sometimes when other people are doing ridiculous stuff she just like looks at them and Yoon Se-ah is really good – her expressions are the best, her sons are really adorable, they love their mom. They basically study their butts off so that their mom won’t get mistreated by their dad, which is a really sad dynamic, but it also makes me love them so much. So anyway, I don’t want to go into too much detail, but I wanted to say how much I love her and the music is perfect – there’s this one moment where I was just like…it’s such a great moment that I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s a soundtrack to a really famous movie, and it has something to do with the study room in their house – that’s all I’ll say…but that was a great scene. I also wanted to mention that episode 19 broke 22% ratings, which means that it’s the highest rated cable drama in history – it’s broken Goblin’s record, which was 20.5% – and Reply 1988 – it’s broken both of those records, so people are really watching this. I couldn’t find the news story…
Saya: But, you know what’s hilarious? That people are watching this, and then they – I read a news report about people – the investment in these consultants has kind of skyrocketed – it’s kind of achieving the opposite of what it hopes to do.
Anisa: Yeah, I was trying to find out where I had seen it, but yeah, I saw that too – did you share it?
Saya: Yeah, I put it in the document…
Anisa: It’s just nuts – I was telling my sister about it – like the drama is trying to show that it’s bad – she was like yeah, it’s like Finding Nemo – where they were trying to show not to pollute the environment – you should protect these fish, but then everyone went out and bought Nemos and made them go extinct…and it was like the opposite of the message in the movie, so…humans are terrible, basically.
But anyway, it’s really great. I cannot wait to watch the next episode. I can’t believe – there’s like continuous reveals – it’s so good – it is so intense and I’m so invested, I’m surprised by how invested I am…
Paroma: The two and a half episodes I watched – every episode, the first half of the episode would be one thing and the second episode the stuff would change – something would be revealed – and then it would change.
Anisa: And it keeps getting better…but even the characters that you hate – you hate them, but it is so enjoyable to hate them and to watch them, so, yeah.
Paroma: Okay – one thing I wanted to do – I don’t know where that story line goes, but you know that super ambitious girl that you just called a psychopath? This girl, she really wants to be the first and her mom really wants her to be the doctor so that she can be acknowledged by her mother-in-law – it’s just screwed up – but the thing is that I loved that – she loves her daughter, and she’s super affectionate towards her daughter and it’s just that – in one instance the mother and daughter want the same thing, so all the machinations, the strategizing – all of those things are done with the consent of the child.
Anisa: Yeah…that mother – if you keep watching – she’s terrible.
Paroma: I’m sure she is, but where I have stopped watching is where she goes and slaps the woman in the parking lot after she finds out about what she finds out about, you know –
Anisa: Yeah, but just keep watching.
Paroma: I thought that was a bit of a redeeming moment for her but…
Anisa: All that redemption is, yeah…she gets much worse.
Paroma: I dislike her husband, he tries to come off has really cool, but I really dislike him. He acts like he doesn’t care about his daughter or being first – he criticizes his wife for all of the machinations, but he also wants exactly the same thing she does – he just doesn’t want to seem –
Anisa: Yeah he’s a hypocrite. You see it more and more – he wants all of that, but he acts like he’s above it – at least his colleague who drinks and comes home every night is honest about how greedy he is.
Paroma: Yeah, I actually like that pair – him and his wife – I think they are like comic relief but I like that pair.
Anisa: She’s a little bit dim, but she really wants what’s best for her kid and her kid is really cute too, so anyway, let’s leave it there and we’ll come back, I want to talk to you when you’ve watched more.
Paroma: How many episodes do they have left?
Anisa: It was originally 16, but it was so popular that they extended it to 20, so it’s just the last 2 episodes that have to air, but they changed the finale scheduling for some reason, so it’s almost finished.
Paroma: Alright, so, moving on to The Last Empress. Saya, this is all yours.
Saya: Okay, The Last Empress. So, Paroma – how far are you?
Paroma: I am still halfway – I think I am at episode 26, which is 13…so still – not very far.
Anisa: How many episodes have you seen Saya?
Saya: I can’t remember the count – I’m at 35 – 36 is what I’ve just watched, which is 18…so basically, this show is nuts, but great, and you are going to love where it was going – you know how I said you would get makjang fatigue…because –
Paroma: How can it possibly stay good – how can it possibly keep up this pace?
Saya: Right, but I’m so surprised that this show does continue to surprise – there is one thing that I am a bit tired of, which is Min Yura who – how many times is the woman going to die and come back?
Paroma: What is she, a zombie now?
Saya: She keeps coming back in different capacities and you are like – oh my God, not you again, please – I really have had enough of you, and she’s got this like breathy whisper – the way she speaks is really beginning to aggravate me, and that…it’s not been that bad because she isn’t dominating, she is sort of there for quick flashes.
Paroma: What is disappointing is that her character devolved in that way – like even in episode 26 where I am, she’s already clearly been sidelined. So even if she comes back it’s not going to be as one of the main villains, it’s always a side villainous character –
Saya: Part of the reason that they can’t discard her completely is that her punishment still needs to come –
Paroma: Even more it’s just –
Saya: So, Choi Jin-hyuk’s revenge has to include her, but what’s so great, is how many people have to come down. You know how this show opened – it had this cold open of like digging out a body, this desiccated corpse, and with the Empress’ crown jewels around her neck and we were like – who is that? Well, we just hit that episode – and oh my God, it is just…so good. Basically, you know the question that has – there are two deaths that the show’s been sort of really digging into, one of those deaths is an old death and the other one is a death that happens early in the show. I don’t want to spoil this for you, but it’s a twist and a half.
Paroma: Okay – if there is a twist to look forward to, I’m all for it. Yeah.
Saya: Yeah, it’s really good, but also – there is so much more to it than just the mystery of who died and who did it, and when – that moment when you realize what really happened – I was just like – agog…
Paroma: There are more murderers?
Saya: It’s crazy. I’m not going to ruin this for you, because it’s so good.
Paroma: No, but now you’ve convinced me to keep watching, because one of the reasons that I stopped is because I didn’t want it to flitter away into stupidness…
Saya: No, it is just so tightly plotted, it’s surprising. And because you know – you kind of – you feel with this kind of melodrama that they just kind of make it up as they go along and let it get as crazy as it can get, but it’s all kind of, you know, like a viewer feedback thing with the live shooting and all of that, but this is – it’s clearly well thought out – the stuff has been built up from the beginning – so well written, and you – it is nuts, but it’s good nuts. And you know how the two main villains are the emperor Lee Hyuk and his mom, the Dowager Empress – they’re just interesting characters. I think I said a couple of weeks ago on Twitter that the Dowager Empress is like a one note character and that’s not interesting – I take it back, she is really interesting. So, she has this moment in the last episode that I watched where she’s in private, and she actually cries a real tear, and it’s shocking because this is a woman without any evident feelings, she is willing to use anyone and everything and she has like no feelings for her kin – whether it’s her sons or her mother in law – she just doesn’t care about people – she only uses them, so she has this one moment where she realizes that her son is about to be brought down and she cries an actual tear – that it’s come to this. And she wipes it away – she very briskly wipes it away and she’s the one who puts the seal on his fate and it’s like – this is so dark – it’s amazing.
And then you have the emperor himself who starts off as this really irredeemable character, and both of us were saying as we were watching this, he doesn’t deserve to be redeemed, and of course it is all in the performance, and the way the character is written and the way the actor handles it and definitely, the dude needs punishing and you feel pity for him. We are at this point where he has totally fallen for Jang Na-ra’s character Sunny, and Sunny has understood him and she has begun to manipulate him in the same way everyone else around him does. She has her reasons and there’s justified reasons for a justified end, but I still feel a little bad watching her manipulate him. I mean, he’s weak-minded and this has been happening to him his whole life – someone is always pulling his strings, and you know because of that he’s never been forced to grow into someone stronger – someone with any kind of moral fortitude – there’s just such a mixture of power and weakness in him. Not strength, power: he has the power that his position confers, but he’s weak and he’s been abused since he was a kid and he’s been used his entire life by other people, mainly his mother. And the one person who had loved him for who he was, he plays a role in getting that person removed from his life and so it’s just – he’s a pitiable character in a pitiable position, but he still did what he did.
Paroma: But the way his character is written, every single thing that happens to him, he causes it himself. There is no situation where he could have been a better man. He had ample opportunity – he had a really good wife – in the first queen, the first empress – he was the one who messed that situation up. Any time he’s given a good thing –
Saya: Because he can’t believe in it, and because he lets himself be influenced by the wrong people while mistrusting the right people – in a way he reminds me so much of people I know in real life as well, and you know there are some people who will always be weak like this, but the person that – their partner needs to be good.
Paroma: Ok, so earlier we were talking about Crowned Clown, I forgot to talk about this, you have – when he’s playing the king – the king is married to Lee Se-young – I love her here – I couldn’t recognize her here because of the entire historical garb, but she is really good. Anyway, he has a really good queen – she has a strong moral character, a strong moral compass, and they actually have a pretty decent – it’s not so much that they have a decent relationship which they don’t because he’s a mad king, but in some ways he respects her and he desperately wants her respect, but he’s too weak to resist the strings of other people in the court. She’s the good influence that you are talking about…
Anisa: But, in a way isn’t that even more interesting, that the love of a good woman couldn’t save him?
Anisa: It’s a better story than him falling in love. I haven’t seen either one of these stories, but you see it so often where you are like – all this guy needs is a woman to give him a moral center and make him a better person, you know?
Saya: Doesn’t this also remind you of the king in Goblin?
Paroma: Yeah, absolutely.
Saya: It was that dynamic – is this like a king thing – the weak king?
Anisa: It’s clearly a trope that works –
Paroma: It’s also a trope that’s true in the real world.
Anisa: Especially for like the Korean kingdoms that came in history – it was a lot of stories about kings who were kind of manipulated –
Paroma: There are a lot of stories like that in Indian history as well, and emperors who… [laughs]
Saya: Maybe it’s just a power thing, like the person who holds the greatest power is always going to be someone who other people will want to control.
Paroma: And will be able to control, because the king and no matter where you are, the king might seem to be at the apex, but he never actually is; his position is directly supported by the shoulders of a lot of people that he’s standing on and if they start moving, he falls, so he’s always very wary about losing his position…and that’s one of the major components – not so much in The Last Empress – though I suppose he does depend upon his mother’s influence a lot so there is that.
Anisa: And it’s exacerbated in a sense that – in any kind of power position – but if it’s a hereditary monarchy, you’ve been manipulated and in that position since childhood…so the person is even more vulnerable in those ways.
Saya: That reminds me of a character – do you know the young – the agasshi who is the princess, she is a little – oh God, I hate her so much in the beginning – she’s the worst – she’s such a stuck up little prig – and she has this specific way of talking, and it made me so mad, laughs, but now she’s turned a corner, under the influence of someone who can actually guide her to correct…
Paroma: She’s at that age – the one thing that I really liked about her character, even when I hated her, was how she was always reacting directly to the influence of the people around her – she was behaving like that because that was the only way she could get any attention.
Saya: She was a micro-politician – she understands politics.
Anisa: So like a real child.
Saya: There is this moment where she’s like crying and her head is down and she’s looking up to gage how the reaction…and it’s just – she’s like under Sunny’s tutelage, she’s become – she’s still funny and forceful in that princess-ey way, but she’s directing it towards better ends, and it is really satisfying to see that.
Paroma: Ok, well I have to get back to watching it.
Anisa: We have to move on to the next show, guys.
Paroma: Which is My Strange Hero – yay!
Saya: I love this show, it’s so good.
Anisa: Sorry – I haven’t watched any since the last Yak…school has taken over.
Saya: In my head I keep calling this Bok-soo and the Wildflowers…[laughs]
Paroma: The wildflowers have really grown on me, I love how they are being – how the characters are being developed.
Saya: So how far into it are you guys?
Paroma: I don’t actually know what episode is airing, but I haven’t watched the last 2 weeks
Saya: I think we’re at 27 or 25, 26.
Anisa: Yeah, I haven’t watched any more since the last time we talked, so –
Saya: Oh, okay, well you’ve got a lot to look forward to!
Anisa: I was just waiting until I had a good chunk of time to enjoy it, and I just never had a good chunk of time.
Paroma: The one thing I have to say right off the bat, even though I don’t know where it’s gone in the last two weeks, is that Soo-jung has been written better now, you know how we were complaining about her character’s inconsistency, the whole forgiveness thing…but I think the writers redeemed themselves, her arc is getting better and she’s getting more badass.
Saya: So, basically, I have thoughts. I am one episode behind, so I’m up to 24. My take home is that number one, Yoo Seung-ho needs to do comedy forever, because being over the top suits his acting style as well, and he goes all in for it – he has no self-consciousness – well with that face you don’t need to – but it is so good and I love the musketeer trio, which is Bok-soo, Seung-woo, the gangster student who is always in the back corner –
Anisa: The one that he saved from his evil boss, that guy?
Saya: Yeah that guy – and the Ivy class dropout…the bond between them has grown as well there’s this great moment – I’m just going to tell you – do you really want me to tell you? Okay, so they get one over on Seon-ho – they come out of the office grinning and Bok-soo holds his hands up one on each side and the two boys look at him – and they have such a cute high five moment – and it’s so good! Very cute. But what I really like is the way that Seon-ho has developed and how he’s actually kind of come clean to Soo-jung because she has become this character that doesn’t let things fester, she just goes and confronts him – so she’s like – what did you do? He keeps trying to play people – games – and he’s always trying to assert himself and his own victories and largely without regard for what it means for the other person.
Anisa: But also, he doesn’t know how real humans work.
Saya: Exactly. He thinks that people should act the way he thinks they should act, without understanding that people are actually people – it’s a great character – he’s doing better with the whole – I thought he was overacting before with his crazy eyes, but he’s toned that down, he’s much better now with the dead eyes, much better. But what I really loved about the episode that I just finished – which would be sort of twelve by the normal count where the angst starts, you know, the obligatory episode twelve angst, the crux and the climax of the episode was not about the fate of the romance, and this isn’t a spoiler, we all know what happens in episode 12 – everyone says let’s break up and there’s a separation. But, instead it really turned it on the school corruption case and you’ve got like Soo-jung ready to light her fire and burn down the world, and it’s so beautifully brought together – I like it.
Anisa: I’m so glad that it is getting really good, because I was a little bit unsure after our last Yak.
Saya: Oh no, you are going to love it – as long as it keeps going the way that it’s going, you’re going to love it – so long as you forget the first few episodes…
Paroma: No, I don’t think you need to forget the first few episodes, it’s just – it was good from the get go, it’s just they wanted the romance to get started already, but they had put in this conflict that needed some real in depth conversation to resolve, but they didn’t want to give the space for that conversation to happen, so they resolved it first, and then in fits and starts they had parts of that conversation later on.
Saya: This is meant to be a love triangle, right? I like how the romance is not a love triangle at all – it’s an easy romance, and the couple is so secure and their coupledom is not threatened – she’s not torn between these two men – it’s just like, neither of them have any doubt about who they want to be with and the trouble that he can cause them isn’t of the romantic kind. So, I like how they’ve low-keyed the angst on the romance, because there is so much angst in there, you don’t need to put it onto the romance – the romance can just be.
Anisa: Oh, I can’t wait until I have time to watch this. You are talking about how Yoo Seung-ho should always do comedies and like I had this thought – and I’ll come back to this when I talk about variety – but I had this thought: he reminds me a lot of Lee Joon-ki. Because they both have this ability to full-on cry, and like it takes them a second and they are just like fully immersed, and they’re such good actors, but they both have that tendency to go a little bit – 1% over the top…
Saya: Which works when you are playing royalty, but it doesn’t any other time unless you like it that way which I have to say I do.
Anisa: But then when it’s no longer life or death, empire stakes, you are just like eh –
Saya: Royalty or high school.
Anisa: Right. Lee Joon-ki would work in a comedy and I wish that he would do one, I don’t think he has, I want to see him in a comedy.
Saya: Watch Lawless Lawyer – he’s great in it!
Anisa: Okay, I’ll watch it
Paroma: In that over the top…that wind machine –
Saya: Oh, Lawless Lawyer was so fun, it was one of my favorite dramas last year.
Paroma: it was subtle in that it is poking fun at the really stylized action of the dramas, but the humor is very self-aware, it’s good.
Okay, so, are we talking about Boyfriend now? The thing is that I am not up to date on this one, because I haven’t been watching dramas in the last few weeks, but here is something that I found on Twitter that I wanted to express to you guys…
Anisa: Before you start, can you tell me what episode you finished up to?
Paroma: I have no clue.
Saya: Last time we got up to the masquerade ball.
Paroma: Yeah, I think I’ve watched like two episodes after that. You have Park Bo-gum’s character running away a lot. Which – he’s kind of a salary-person – so can he do that?
Saya: I think he’s sent away.
Paroma: He kind of ups and leaves after that.
Anisa: The rules are different for beautiful people
Paroma: I had this interesting discussion with kfangirl on Twitter, because she wrote this article – she has a blog, The Fangirl Verdict, and she wrote this really interesting article about why she dropped Boyfriend. I don’t think I want to drop it, I really enjoy watching Song Hye-kyo, even more than Park Bo-gum. It’s very realistic, and it’s also really – she’s charismatic in a very quiet way, and I want to see – she’s gearing up for battle with her ex-in laws so I really want to see how that is going down. I just haven’t watched it yet.
Anisa: I’m actually more interested in that then I am in the romance, to be honest.
Paroma: So that’s exactly what the conversation was about. The thing is, initially, I did have some reservations about – okay, so there is this social conditioning that we all have when we see the older/younger pairing, we are generally more comfortable when the man is older, right? We all love noona romances, but when you have a face like Park Bo-gum’s who looks so starkly younger, it was startling at first – the first episode took me a while to get used to that dynamic, but once I did, and especially because I love Song Hye-kyo, I was in it. But there was a vague unease as the story went on that I couldn’t pinpoint the reason for. I thought I was just being prejudiced – I’m perfectly cool with the employer/ employee romance when the guy is the boss, so why is this making me uncomfortable? kfangirl wrote her reasoning for it, and I think she completely nailed it. I’m just going to read a very small portion of it, bear with me, because I think she did a fantastic job of saying it…
She says that there is a problem with the genre, where this drama has been placed. It is kind of like a mix of two things: “Turns out, this is a drama world where there are two groups of people – those who believe they live in a rom-com world, and those who firmly believe that they don’t live in a rom-com world, and when you try to smash rom-com expectations into a non rom-com world, things get problematic.”
What she means by this is that you have Song Hye-kyo and Park Bo-gum who are acting really irresponsibly when it comes to workplace etiquette – they are doing things that are going to – it’s irresponsible and unprofessional, but when you are in a rom-com it doesn’t matter, because you know, hey, boss/ secretary stories. We loved when it was happening in What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim. Nobody thought that it was unprofessional when the romance was starting to take off, but in this drama it was bugging me, because the stakes in this drama are very real. Everybody around them are living in the real world, where if the boss sends a car to pick him up from his workplace, which is also her workplace, it’s a privilege she’s giving to a staff member and she’s only giving that privilege because he’s dating her – do you understand what I mean? And then when she comes into his office and he’s the most junior member of that team, everybody leaves so that the boss can talk to her boyfriend – these are things that…they’re just unprofessional to do.
Saya: Do you think it would be different if the genders were reversed?
Paroma: That’s what I initially thought, but I don’t think so. I think in this particular case, you have these two characters, that’s what I’m saying – if this had been a completely rom-com drama, where you have these two characters slowly falling in love and everybody around them are like, these two people are falling in love, and the evil people outside are being evil in their evil way that would be fine – you know how like in Secretary Kim, you had everybody in the company actually supportive of their romance, especially their core team – and you had the boss’ parents being supportive – that was not the conflict. Even though they did mention a bit about her discomfort about his behavior in the workplace, how it’s making everybody think that she got her position by sleeping with him, they mention that but they don’t really go into it – because that drama was a rom-com. You don’t talk about actual consequences. Whereas in Encounter, the actual consequences are being shown on screen…
Anisa: The atmosphere of a sageuk in modern times with a company, it’s so intense.
Paroma: It’s fantastic – it gives this grim realism to the whole thing. So, in this situation, I would expect these two people to be extra careful about their relationship, so that they can protect themselves and not make the people in the office…he kept working for her even though they started dating in the office – there is a huge difference in their status in the company, and of course he’ll be treated differently because he’s dating the boss – openly.
Anisa: It’s not like Secretary Kim where they are already a team that’s been together forever.
Paroma: For a decade. And also, they kept their romance quiet until the last moment. But here, as they started dating it became public news and it’s an uncomfortable situation so you would have expected the CEO to be more respectful of his position in society. Her conflict was not that his career is being affected – her conflict was that my mother-in-law and my mother might try to harm him, not that her actions are directly harming his career, which they are, and the drama was not addressing that, even though everything else was so realistic that you would expect that these things be addressed. You would expect that an experienced CEO like her, who knows how society works – how people talk, how much she’s scrutinized, to be aware that there are consequences to what she’s doing. And especially because – not because she’s older but because she has more experience in this world, she should have been more protective of him not just by pushing him away, but by protecting him.
Anisa: That’s a really good analysis.
Paroma: I would not have thought of this if not for kfangirl, so I have put a link to her article in the description below, so please, guys, go read it – it’s interesting and even if you don’t agree with me, it is just interesting to read that perspective.
Anisa: And also, shout out to kfangirl – her blog is really great, you should all go read it.
Saya: I have a quick question – and yeah, it is great. I read it as well. About the rom-com thing, just to clarify – you’re saying that the actors are acting like they are in a rom-com, not that the drama is a rom-com.
Paroma: Exactly. It’s a romance melodrama, but the actors are acting like their actions have no consequences. It’s not like they’re teenagers, and we’re going to do this because we’re in the moment. These two especially – Song Hye-kyo’s character is a really reserved, measured character who has had a world of experience and hurt, so even when she’s giddy and happy with Park Bo-gum and that’s good – I love seeing that, I actually enjoy watching them together, I do. It’s the office dynamics that is making me uncomfortable. I genuinely think that the way the relationship was carried out in the office was irresponsible and there should be consequences and that he probably should not be working – I know that it is a hit on his career, but he should not be working for that company. He should be working somewhere else and then freely date her, because that dynamic is just – and we talked about this in Secretary Kim too, it’s not like he spent years of his life in this company already; he can make a new start somewhere else. Well anyway, I don’t know where the drama is going, I haven’t watched it in a couple of weeks, but, those were my initial thoughts.
Anisa: Thank you, I appreciate that perspective. Because remember, last time I was like – there’s something about it that is making me feel a bit awkward but you guys were like, no, no it’s fine. I didn’t think about the genre thing, because you are soright, that’s what it is – it’s the genre thing. Okay, so completed shows. I just finished Top Star Yoo Baek last night. Er, very late this morning.
Saya: Did you sleep at all last night?
Anisa: I did, I actually got like five or six hours. So, I finished this – this finished airing Friday the 25th, and I just watched it right away because – I wasn’t watching it for a while and then on Sunday or Monday I watched 8, 9 and 10 and then I was waiting for the end so I watched the ending and it was just a really cute, funny, fun drama – it has a really – a heart of gold. The leads are lovable, the side characters are lovable, there aren’t really any villains, and it’s also surprisingly moving.
So, you have this kind of light slapstick comedic romantic comedy, but rather than making these – the people on the island, the people in Yoo Baek’s agency, his mother that he’s kind of estranged from, all these other characters – they could have been one-note, two-dimensional caricatures. But by the end I loved them – they all had their own kind of stories. The teacher and the doctor’s romance was so over the top and ridiculous, and there were the two grandmothers – they were this funny pair, in the last couple of episodes of the drama, you actually get this really touching story line, this backstory that really made me tear up and emotional, so in the end you have this family of people that you don’t want to leave.
I really like how instead of making it a gimmick for Yoo Baek to go to the island and redeem himself by falling in love with this girl, it was just like, that place changed him so much, and it was such a convincing transformation because of the information that we get about what his life had been like up to that point. But I never felt that it was gimmicky. Even though it had a lot of over the top moments, the story – the root of the story was actually pretty well-written and very sincere, and I really bought it. So, I will give two examples really quickly. For an example of the humor, there’s this one part where – the only villain is this bulldog reporter that won’t let go of Yoo Baek’s gossip story and he’s like always waiting for a moment to get him. So he breaks this really damaging false report about Yoo Baek, and like the company – the president of Yoo Baek’s company goes and smashes his camera in revenge, with like a mask on, and the reporter had often been wearing a mask too because he was sneaking around – so they have this confrontation and they both do that thing from the Mr. Sunshine posters, seeing if they can recognize the person while they are looking at their eyes, which is hilarious, but it’s also really corny. There’s a lot of moments like that where it’s kind of cheesy but it’s also genuinely funny and the casts really pulls off – it’s a great cast.
But then there’s also moments like when, for example, early on – I’m just going to say it because it’s pretty early on in the drama, it’s right in the beginning when they still kind of hate each other, but Kang-soon, who is the heroine – it’s the memorial day of her parent’s death, and her parents drowned in an accident when she was like 2 or 3, and the whole episode is kind of about that loss and how it has affected everyone on the island who are basically like a family, and how it’s really affected her, and that’s his first moment when he really wants to be there for her and comfort her because of his own tragic history with his own parents and it was like their first genuine moment of connection, and I kind of teared up a little bit – it was really sweet. It helps that the music is really good too.
Paroma: Yeah, the music is really good.
Anisa: So, yeah – it’s rare that I feel completely satisfied by the ending of something, but I feel completely satisfied, and it was a perfect length – 11 episodes. They all ended up being around 90 minutes, so it wasn’t as short as it sounds, but I think it was perfect – it never dragged, it didn’t go on too long. I didn’t care that everyone had an overly perfect happy ending, it was great – it made me feel a little bit healed inside, so yeah, I highly recommend it.
Paroma: Okay, I am going to finish watching it. The thing with most dramas is that even thought they start off really well, often by the second half there is this exhaustion, so I have been programmed to be really wary of second halves, so if I’m going to stop watching a drama, it’s going to be in the second half.
Anisa: No, there is no slump in this one…there’s no episode 12 slump. I mean there isn’t an episode 12, so maybe that’s the secret, it’s 11. They are longer, but I think it ends at the perfect…you get just enough of that fluffy fan service-y stuff at the end to make you feel satisfied without feeling like you got a sugar coma and now you feel a little sick – [laughs] so that’s Yoo Baek.
Paroma: Okay – yay! One more thing to keep watching, which I was going to keep watching anyway, I don’t know why I am acting like I would not have kept watching this.
Saya: It’s start watching for me.
Anisa: So, speaking of endings, satisfying or not, tell me about Memories of the Alhambra.
Saya: I have a lot to say – do you want to start, or do you want me to go first.
Paroma: You go first, because I just finished it so I would appreciate a few more minutes to process it.
Saya: Okay, so that ending…Oh my God, this drama. So, we need to talk about Song Jae-jung, who…she wrote one of my favorite dramas and I think Paroma’s all-time favorite drama, right? So, that’s the bar, and then we had Nine which is a fantastic drama. Nine was the drama that the moment that I finished it, I could no longer be a lurker on Dramabeans. That’s when I was like, okay, now is the time to embrace the fandom and let them heal me. So that was the drama that took me into the Dramabeans fandom.
Anisa: Wait, you mean heal you from like a traumatic experience of the drama?
Saya: It was traumatic for good reasons. It was a good show. So, what you’ve got is you’ve got this fantastic heroine in Queen In-Hyun’s Man which is played by Yoo Inna – who’s got this wonderful charm that even if she doesn’t have a lot to do, and now that I’m looking at it through the long lens of time, her story line was really not comparable to Kim Boong-do’s – like he had all of that hotshot action, the exciting thrillery, historical melodrama, politics, intrigue, murder, assassination…everything was going on and she was like…and I actually really liked that contrast, I think it really worked in the show.
Paroma: I have something to say here. Just an insert – I completely agree, but also in the context of that show, as you said, that contrast worked, because she was…it’s not just that – she was our point of view. If we suddenly found this Joseon era man in our world and we had to grapple with things really quickly, figure out history really fast, figure out where in time he is and how my actions can change things or his actions can change things –
Saya: Or can’t change things as well, which is what she was dealing with.
Paroma: She was coping really well for someone who kept calling herself really dim. I loved that – I loved how resourceful she was given her limited knowledge and control. And her goals were very clear, she wanted this guy to come back and she wanted him safe, and she worked towards that, so I really enjoyed that – and as you say – she puts in more into a character even though that character might be limited in somebody else’s hands, in her I never figured that she had less to do, it always felt like she was very integral to the story.
Saya: Yeah, because you were so interested in her outcomes and you can relate to her and she was so cute and adorable, I thought she was so stunning – this was my second drama, right? So she was the first actress I saw with that face and I just thought, wow – she is so beautiful.
Anisa: I also really loved Queen In Hyun’s Man, but I just want to point out that there were some people who were not happy with the ending
Saya: I’m getting there, wait for me. As you say, there were people who were pretty dissatisfied with that ending, but I wasn’t, so it’s never bothered me before like for example in that drama, and also in Nine, and also to some extent in W – it didn’t bother me that she didn’t explain her mechanisms, because I felt that there was enough in-world that – it was originally inexplicable. But in Memories of Alhambra, that just doesn’t work.
Paroma: It does not work. You do not have a magical bujeok [talisman] doing things – this is supposed to have logical reasoning.
Saya: The questions – I have so many questions. First, the moment that last shot rolled I was like, what just happened? There was this mad fury – I was like – are you kidding me? Is this all? Are you for real? I was listing my questions – so why did the game malfunction and cross over into reality? Was it sentient? In other shows that she’s done you are talking about different timelines and dimensions and comprehensibly inexplicable, but this is a game that exists in the same reality – it exists in the same timeline, it exists in the same…how could Se-joo vanish from the physical world? That did not make sense and they have like a one-line answer to that, which also did not make sense and it’s like no, it doesn’t work that way – you are not manipulating space/ time – you are not able to do that – this is a game – this is not a dimension traveling thingy!
Paroma: I think what he was trying to say though is that he was making himself invisible to the NPC’s in the game.
Saya: No, because he vanished from the dimension of actual…which was not explained –
Paroma: Which was never explained. How – and what, was he in limbo for the entire year – what was he eating?
Saya: He was consumed by the game into what? An electronic dimension? Were his particles – did he become like sparks of electricity? What happened? You have to explain this – it doesn’t work this way. So then you finish that with what’s his name Yoo Jin-woo also vanishing and then it’s like he is suddenly – his silhouette appears in the last shot and you’re like – I know that you are not going to watch this Anisa –
Anisa: Are they spoilers? Because if they are we should warn the listeners, because I don’t care – I’m not going to watch it.
Saya: Yeah, this whole discussion is a spoiler discussion about the ending. So, that last shot has Jin-woo silhouetted appearing in game – it’s not particularly conclusive, it is semi-ambiguous but not as in – okay it’s him. And you have Hee-joo running to him and it’s just – it’s ugggh – it’s one of those shots that you did because it was so cool, but it has no foundation in the story whatsoever. I was reading these interviews afterwards –
Anisa: [laughs] Sorry, it reminds me of the interview that she gave after W when everyone was so enraged.
Paroma: Hold on, before you move on to the interview, let me just say something about the last shot – so I rewound and watched that last shot a few times, and two things: first is I really don’t think she needed to do that thing with Jin-woo – Jin-woo did not need to get sort of killed and then not – it just did not need to happen.
Saya: It would have been good, actually, it wouldn’t have been a bad ending if she just left him as a pile of sugar – that’s it – that’s his story.
Paroma: Or, just look – he’s a broken man by the end – could you just let him live like that. Just let him live.
Saya: Or let him disappear. I would have, but I would have understood it.
Paroma: Okay, so my second point is, what I think she was trying to do with this, is just as Jin-woo did his quest to get Se-joo back, this is Park Shin-hye’s turn to have a quest to get him back – it’s done so botchingly that it’s not even clear that that is where – you never see Park Shin-hye hold a sword, she’s never an active player – the only time she’s used the game is to track Jin-woo, that’s the only purpose of her being logged in and she ducks every time she’s shot at.
Saya: Well she doesn’t have weapons, and she’s not like a player.
Paroma: She doesn’t even have the basic weapon, the basic sword that every other user –
Saya: She’s not the gamer at all.
Paroma: She’s not the gamer but this is exactly why this implication doesn’t work – if she had even held a sword once, the implication might have landed better that now it’s Park Shin Hye’s turn to, I don’t know, do something – do a quest and get him out of the game. But since she’s never actually been an active player, and always just used it as a tracking mechanism, it just doesn’t land.
Saya: We’re not onto Park Shin-hye yet because that’s a whole other subject.
Paroma: That’s a whole other subject – so I’m sorry – you were saying that you read interviews…
Saya: So I read interviews and some points were interesting, like she really wasinspired by Pokemon Go – that was like the inspiration for creating this augmented reality – and it’s a great idea. And the other thing that is kind of true about her dramas is that they’ve all sort of visually – in terms of how they look the CGI, the directing, everything – it’s all stood the test of time. All of her dramas still look as good now as they did when they aired and this drama is beautiful – it is totally like, wow.
Anisa: That’s not something that she did, other than choose a good director to work with.
Saya: Right – as in they only succeed in one particular way – in that way. So, where was I going? Oh yeah, so interestingly – you know sometimes when you are watching dramas and wonder if your experience with the drama is altered by a culture barrier – like am I not getting something here that is clear to, for example, a domestic audience? But it is like, no, netizens are also frothing at the mouth. And there was this great comment: the scriptwriter is a bug, delete the scriptwriter. [laughs] So her explanation for the game malfunctioning, and I will read you the quote from her interview – the question that she was asked is why did people die in the game and her answer was, “You can think of it as a virus – having murderous intent and breaking the rules created an error in the game. In Yoo Jin-woo and Cha Hyung-seok’s case as well, the murderous fights between the users caused them to become able to feel pain and unable to log out.” And she adds, “I had my storyline edited by a professional in the field. Using smart lenses to play an AR game means that the brain can be controlled by the game.” So, I’m sorry, I call very big BS – this is like, NO. So one, Marco didn’t try to kill Se-joo in the game, so these are the two original – like Se-joo is the game creator that’s Park Shin-hye’s brother, and Marco was sort of his gangster hyung who was trying to commandeer the profits of selling the game – so he tried to kill Se-joo in real life.
Paroma: While logged in the game.
Saya: While logged in the game.
Paroma: And in the presence of this one NPC character, Emma.
Saya: Right, who is like a lookalike of Hee-joo, Park Shin-hye’s character.
Paroma: She’s sort of an oracle.
Saya: So one, Marco didn’t try to kill Se-joo in the game, so the game shouldn’t have registered that, because he wasn’t using a game weapon, and secondly Se-joo – Marco does die, but Se-joo doesn’t try to kill him he was trying to protect himself, so it was like self defense, not murder, I mean in the way that that distinction works. So, no – that just, no. And then the whole – having my storyline edited by a professional and using smart lenses means that the brain can be controlled – noooo.
Paroma: Okay, so here’s the thing…that’s not – that’s a misunderstood concept. The brain absolutely is influenced by what you do – but using smart lenses? The brain is absolutely not controlled – I also called bullshit on the lens being able to make you feel…
Saya: Right, it’s not altering your reality in that way – you could have come up with some pretty good pseudo-science here, like I had a theory and my theory was that – I can’t remember because my memory has been wiped by the terrible ending. But basically, there was something happening – interaction between your brain and the reality that you are perceiving through the game, something is happening and it is like an unexpected side effect of it, but you could have pulled out…
Paroma: That’s what I thought as well – of course your brain is – I assumed that the more the users played this, or maybe it’s not even about immersion, it’s just about the game – whatever technology it uses, does influence the person’s brain lets say, and that’s find and at some point it does it to a point where you believe that you’ve actually been hit – like when Cha Hyung-seok was killed by that sword, he shouldn’t have felt anything, but his brain thought that he had been stabbed.
Saya: Let me read you that explanation for the next part…so “what allows the game to access an augmented reality through the lens is that it makes it possible to control the brain…so while Jin-woo does experience genuine pain in battle and suffers from a limp in real life, there’s a logical explanation for why his leg isn’t hurt in the game. To put it simply, it’s mind control” – which again – that isn’t a logical explanation. It’s like – you’re making this up now, because you didn’t explain it before.
Anisa: So, I don’t believe in this – after the show or movie ends and everyone’s mad you suddenly have to give interviews to explain it. That means you’ve failed as a writer, I’m sorry.
Saya: I mean, you’re retroactively sort of trying to rationalize what you’ve just done, but you didn’t know what you were doing when you did it – so like for example…just one more quote – let me give it to you – because this is about Cha Hyun-seok, the friend who died in the game – so this is another quote, “the scene where the police officer speculates that Cha Hyun-seok’s death was caused by a lack of blood in his body, was written to trick viewers. That was only a speculation made by the police officer – they couldn’t properly check if it was true. It was a line used to give anxiety as to whether or not Yoo Jin-woo was actually complicit in the murder of Cha.” It’s like – no – if anything this interview actually makes me even angrier – your explanation is worse – you should have just left it as it was. Ahhh! So, I’m not very happy with this.
Paroma: There are plenty of things in the game’s own logic that doesn’t work, but it doesn’t have to – we know that this is a made-up world. It’s fine with me that the logic fails sometimes, but you have to be consistent – you have to know the rules.
Saya: It doesn’t need to make sense in real world terms, if it makes sense within the rules of the world that you’ve created, but the thing is that she had basically the real world, and then she had the game. The thing is, the game wasn’t a different dimension – the game had to connect to the real world. Somehow like it had to connect properly – explicably – in a way that previous time travel didn’t have to because they are quite mystical, but this is science, this isn’t talismans…
Paroma: What was the most magical and inexplicable of all of this stuff was once you take off the lens, how does your brain keep staying logged into the server? You are seeing ghosts and you are fighting them, you are actually logged into the server – how is that possible?
Saya: And it’s like – you could have taken a little bit of time to give that some explanation, some internal consistency. That can happen but you have to know why. All of these things can happen but you as the writer have to know, and you have to show it to us, not tell it to us in a post-show interview when everyone’s mad with you.
Anisa: So, I understand that as with some other shows – I feel like my experience of her shows is always like watching everyone around me go crazy with excitement for the first half of her shows, and I’m like, how are you going to sustain this momentum? And then it just, like, crashes and burns and I’m just over here, the terrible person with the schadenfreude – [laughs]
Saya: But it’s because of Queen In-Hyun’s Man and Nine – it’s because of those two shows and because her first halves are so good, it’s just – since W, I’m like hmmm.
Anisa: So, do you think it’s like still worth watching or is the ending…
Paroma: Yes. It’s worth watching.
Saya: I feel no, because I mean – let’s get onto Park Shin-hye. We were talking about how Song Jae-jung’s shows were like conceptually fantastic – she is always doing something cutting edge and different, and setting trends, but man her storytelling needs work. Like, with this one she could have just gone sci-fi. Again, in one of the interviews she said that she hadn’t actually written in a love interest for the male character, and the female character wasn’t a big thing – but then when she found out that Park Shin-hye was cast for that role, she felt that it would be a waste of her character not to have a love line, and it’s like, well, that went well, didn’t it? Because her character was totally wasted and literally all she did all show was cry, wait for him, and play guitar. Although impressively, she did that guitar herself; she practiced a lot, she put so much into that role, and it’s such a disservice to her and she’s a good actress. She might not have an enormous range, but she has things she’s good at.
Anisa: She’s solid.
Saya: Exactly, she’s a reliable actress, and she’s interesting to watch and I like her, I’m not like a rabid anti or a rabid stan – is that what you call them? [laughs]
Anisa: I know what you mean, she’s a really likable onscreen presence.
Saya: She’s able to give her roles character, she just has nothing to work with – it’s not that she had a limited amount to work with, she had nothing to work with. So, again, this is characteristic of Song Jae-jung dramas – they are all one-man shows, which would be fine if you didn’t have a woman in there just sort of being furniture, or as our friend put it, a potted plant, which is what she was throughout this whole show – it was a waste of 16 hours for me. Sorry, go on P.
Paroma: I think it’s worth watching anyway. The visual effects of this drama are stunning, the concept was interesting and now that this has been done, I’m hoping that the next story that uses augmented reality will learn from the mistakes of this story and just do better. But also, it was worth watching it because of Hyun Bin. I have never liked him better. His character was given proper range – everything Park Shin-hye’s character missed, his character was given – he not only had to battle real Joseon era or old Spanish warriors, he also had to battle the disbelief of the people in his life, constantly battle insanity because he was in an insane situation – he somehow manages to stay calm, even keep his humor and carry on…
Saya: His self awareness was so razor sharp, it was so good. This is what I mean about – she should have just gone sort of all in with her one man show – just make it his show – it would have been better.
Paroma: Yeah, I agree, without the Park Shin-hye whole tangent, even with the lack of logic at the end, I don’t think I would have minded – I don’t think I would have had the simmering ill feeling that I have towards this drama that I have because of Park Shin-hye’s character.
Saya: Yeah, like because the whole last episode was her mooning around, crying and waiting for him to come home and it was like – this is boring.
Paroma: Yeah, I skipped most of that.
Saya: It’s not that it was boring, it was infuriating, because you’ve got like an hour of show time, you should have used it wisely. Oh, and the other thing that is interesting about Jin-woo’s character and we will move on very soon, is that Song Jae-jung said that this character is the only original character that survived her first conception of the story which was originally some sort of time-slip story, and then she was like, I’m tired of time-slip and then she got inspired by Pokemon Go which was big at the time, but she also just read the autobiography of Elon Musk, so the Jin-woo character is based upon him to some degree – both of them have PhD’s in engineering and they are both like self-made CEO’s of extremely successful IT companies, so I found that quite interesting, though Elon Musk as a role model does seem a little…yeah. But Jin-woo is genuinely a fantastic character and Hyun-bin really nailed it.
Anisa: I guess my hesitance with her is that I just don’t trust her anymore as a writer and as a human being, so even though I know that she’s really talented in a lot of ways I’m just like – do I really want to give that much time to you – do I want to give you my heart?
Paroma: Unfortunately, because she does have a genius for creating a new and interesting world, I will probably always give her dramas at least one try, and then of course probably have my heart broken, but eh.
Saya: I can deal with having heartbreak, for example with Nine, that kind of killed me. I can deal with heartbreak – what I can’t deal with is it leaving me fuming.
Anisa: It has to make sense. It doesn’t always have to have a happy ending, it just has to make sense.
Paroma: With the last two dramas, W and this one, it seems like she was so in love with the concept that she didn’t actually give much thought to the storytelling.
Anisa: I think she needs a really good writing partner who can reign her in.
Saya: Yeah, like Kim Eun-suk does so much better with a co-writer, I think Song Jae-jung needs to maybe steal Kim Eun-suk’s one, it would be better.
Anisa: Ooh, makjang! [laughter]
Paroma: Ok, so those are our thoughts, so now we are moving onto Red Moon, Blue Sun, or Children of Nobody. Saya?
Saya: Oh, I forgot about that name. Ok, so that just ended last week, can I start with how smug I feel about guessing the identity of the villain three weeks early and yeah – I feel very smug. So, this show, actually for a start, it got better every week. I think I talked a lot last time about how it just – it’s so well written, but to the end it did that. Rare is the show that is driven by a single mystery and it keeps you guessing on and on – but it did suffer, it had a preemption in the middle so the episode count was thrown off, so the actual episode aired a week after the sort of – the penultimate episode, so that kind of threw it off a little bit, but still it was great.
The thing that struck me about the show is that it really reminded me of I Remember You in it’s tone and the way that there is this big picture that begins to emerge but it’s been drawn right from the start. It feels a lot like putting together a puzzle and like there is no sense of this being made up as you go along, because everything is so carefully placed, so I think I also said last time about how impressed I am about the cast, and the person that I found that I warmed to the most was Lee Yi-kyung’s character, the gruff detective. The first time you meet him is like slightly disturbing overly possessive just dumped boyfriend, and as the show goes on he proves to be an excellent detective but at the back of your mind there is always that memory of the uncomfortable boyfriend that he was, but it’s great because the way his character develops is that he’s constantly tested throughout the show – he’s like forced to confront so many things, things like the limits of the law, or how like when the law is supposed to deliver justice and it actually sometimes achieves the total opposite, and that where his intention is to be an agent of justice through the law, he then has to face his own complicity and particularly in this very horrible case of child abuse. That meets this opposite of when murder is supposed to be the worst crime, what if the murder is justified and deserved?
So, the way that it keeps you guessing is that everyone is believable as a culprit, everyone has the motive, but the question is – who can cross the line? And you change your mind moment to moment about who it could be and who is capable of it and who believes in it and Kim Sun-ah’s character is the one who left me feeling I think the most disturbed in general – I feel like she maybe presented the character that was the most real. She gets on with her life, but in the times in between when she doesn’t have to present as a functional adult, you kind of see her as this – you can see who she really is behind that functionality – she’s broken, sometimes dangerously, and I think that she’s also disturbing because you always feel a bit off-balance with her. There are those times when she is totally decisively functional and efficient and then there’s these other times when she just completely falls apart and she gets lost inside an inner world that only she can see and her judgment goes out of the window and you just don’t know where you are with her – and it’s a great character – it is really internally consistent.
Anisa: Were you satisfied with the ending?
Saya: Ummm, yes. It was not quite what I expected, because it turned out to have the murderer stuff was actually resolved in the penultimate episode, but then there was this further crisis for Kim Sun-ah’s character which happens in the final episode which is where she confronts that feeling that’s been haunting her from the very first episode, and you know that whole uncertainty about how mentally sound she is, that – it never quite leaves you and she finally uncovers these suppressed memories but even then, it’s really hard to say what really happened. Because – did it happen, or is it your interpretation that you are seeing because that’s the way the show is presented? There is this very blurred line between internal reality and external reality and unlike Memories of Alhambra, it’s the perfect ambiguity. The other main person in the show – one of quite a lot of important characters -you know VIXX’s N – I actually you know, I’m never quite sure about his acting. In this he has a kind of mute intensity that is either the result of intentional acting, or it masks his deficiencies – I haven’t really quite decided which is which, because all of the roles I’ve seen him in so far have been quite similar, so it’s difficult to say whether he did really well, or whether it’s just that the role didn’t need him to do much more than sort of be intense and brooding and childlike and that’s the characteristic of all of the roles I’ve seen him so far, but there is this really quite extraordinary scene near the end where I found him really chilling – so for anyone who’s watched it, poetry and paper roses – that was so chilling – this was a good show, and you said Anisa that you really loved I Remember You?
Anisa: I did. You saying that it reminds you of I Remember You makes me want to watch it
Saya: And because you love Kim Sun-ah as well.
Anisa: I do! It’s on my list for sure. Ok, so you guys have been watching an older show, right?
Paroma: Yeah, Master of Study.
Saya: It was the shortage of Bok-soo – it was like, there’s not enough Bok-soo in my life – let me go see him in another school drama, but this is Yoo Seung-ho when he’s like legit 16 doing this school drama and it’s Yoo Seung-ho, Go Ah-sung and Lee Hyun-woo, so the three of them –
Anisa: My God, it’s from 2010.
Paroma: This is Bae Doona in a way that I have not seen her before. This is very early Bae Doona.
Anisa: Also, this is based on a Japanese drama called God of Study.
Saya: Yeah, that’s right. So, you’ve got the teachers are main teachers are played by Bae Doona and Kim Su-ro and they’re really good. The fun thing about this is that the students – the kids are just so tiny and they have no screen presence and you are like, I know what you will become as you watch the whole thing.
Anisa: I feel like it would be weird to watch it now, having known them as adults and later – like ten years later.
Saya: Yeah, because usually you are doing it in reverse, you watch the actors in these early dramas – the stuff that comes to mind is the School series 2013, 2015, 2017…
Paroma: Especially 2013, because the storyline was slightly similar with this external force coming in to 2013 – and imposing his way of teaching and Jang Na-ra disagreeing with him and here you have Bae Doona initially disagreeing with the lawyer who comes in and tries to establish a new way of studying, which by the way – these are all methods that as a kid we did try out, it’s not like these are completely new and amazing strategies.
Saya: Yeah, it’s basically, they’re school hacks. And I have to say at the end of every episode, they have this sort of epilogue-y thing when the credits roll – like study tips, and I watch them and I feel anxiety, because it’s like – it is one model of schooling and you know after sort of living for a little while and spending very long in the education system, you just realize that that one type of schooling really doesn’t work for everyone and of course South Korea’s education attainment is like better than anywhere in Europe, I think…it works on one level, but it also – it may not necessarily be healthy, and I don’t want to make cultural value judgments about that because that’s something very complex, but I felt a little like – thank God I’m not in school anymore.
Anisa: Right. I am though, so I don’t want to watch a school drama right now. Sorry, just to clarify, this was actually based upon something called Dragon Zakura, not God of Study. God of Study was another Korean title.
Saya: Well, if anyone is really lacking for Yoo Seung-ho in your life, while you are between your episodes of Bok-soo, you know what to watch.
Anisa: And, we are going to wrap the episode here, in our new format, so we will see you next week with What’s Up in Dramaland. Bye guys!
Saya and Paroma: Bye everyone!