We’re unpardonably late this month (thanks to my ear infection), but here’s the Yak that should have come out in early March. We talk about the two romantic comedies that caught all the eyeballs in Feb, and give our final (somewhat scathing) thoughts on the ending of The Last Empress. We could have gone on (Min Yoo-ra could have taken up another hour), but we took pity on you. XP
The transcript to the episode (provided by Kdramadaydreamer) is below the Time Stamps!
Listen along to the episode here!
00:01:46 – Romance is a bonus book
00:33:52 – Touch Your Heart/Reach of Sincerity
00:49:31 – Crowned Clown
00:58:44 – My Strange Hero
01:05:31 – The Last Empress (wrap up!)
01:25:35 – Orange Marmalade
01:28:09 – 1N2D
NON KOREAN STUFF –
01:34:51 – Isn’t it romantic
01:39:54 – 12 Monkeys
01:41:45 – Zindagi Gulzar Hai
Saya: Is this going to be a good yak or a bad yak?
Anisa: I don’t know, sometimes when we don’t sleep it’s actually better, so, we’ll see.
Saya: Hey everyone, this is Saya.
Anisa: This is Anisa.
Paroma: And this is Paroma. Welcome to our March Yak where we talk about dramas of February.
Saya: Laughs. A belated February yak. It’s because February is too short. It’s been a short and brutal month.
Anisa: Please forgive us.
Paroma: But hey, you know, this is a totally intentional cliché by the broadcast companies, in that we got two really nice, romantic dramas in February – the month of Western holiday cards, I guess.
Anisa: Oh, yeah. I don’t even acknowledge that Valentine’s Day exists, so I totally forgot about that.
Paroma: Yeah, speaking of which…
Anisa: Let’s start with the first one.
Paroma: Romance is a Bonus Book.
Anisa: Should I go first? So, I’m 10 episodes in, and I was just telling Saya because I make bad life decisions, because I was going to go to bed last night but I was on episode 6 and I was just like – let me just watch a few minutes, and that turned into watching until 4:30am. So, now I’ve watched 10 episodes. I wanted to just mention that I hadn’t realized, remember when we were talking about upcoming and I was like, oh, this sounds like an American TV show called Younger – and it’s actually a remake of Younger. So I wasn’t just being like, oh this is a coincidence – it’s actually a remake, but the difference in this one is that in the original one she actually hides her age and she pretends to be younger, but because in Korean society it is really hard to hide your age, instead she hides her education and her career achievements and she pretends to be a high school graduate. I haven’t watched the American one… it would be interesting to compare the two, but yeah, that’s cool.
Paroma: There are a few American dramas or movies where they have used concepts like this, like Never Been Kissed, for instance. It’s not exactly been portrayed in a very kind and sensitive way, the way that it is – sympathetic way, the way that Romance is a Bonus Book is doing right now. Because Dan-i’s struggle is less about how old she is and that has more to do with her romance, it’s that she was in a very senior level position, and now she has gone back to the most junior position in the firm and she is humble enough and sort of motivated enough to learn from the very beginning, and acknowledge that she has something to learn – that it’s been what 7-10 years since her last, high-paid, advertising job – initially she thought, well, this is demeaning but I will do it because I can’t find a job, and then it was her arc to learn that I have things to learn, that some of my knowledge is outdated, the world has gone ahead – there is a reason that I wasn’t getting the job by just talking about my previous achievements.
Saya: But that’s not to say that the ageism isn’t…
Paroma: That there wasn’t discrimination…there definitely was.
Anisa: From what I understand about the American TV show, is that it does kind of address really interesting topics in that way and that it is a really interesting, fun, sort of publishing…I think in Younger it’s like a women’s magazine, but I’ve heard that it’s – I think that the first few episodes do focus on the age thing and it’s like not as good, but once it gets into the characters and the relationships it’s really good.
Paroma: One of us will have to make the sacrifice and actually watch it so that we can make a comparison…
Saya: I actually looked it up last month and I read a few reviews and stuff and I just thought it didn’t look like – I enjoy this because it’s a K-drama – it has all of the elements that make us into these shows – that wouldn’t necessarily have existed in the original, or at least not in the same way.
Anisa: I mean they changed quite a bit – like she’s not – in the original one she lives with her best friend who’s a woman, and she like – falls in love with somebody at the company, but in this one they are childhood friends and they are living together, so it’s definitely a different dynamic.
Saya: Because – they are meant to appeal to a different type of audience – it’s meant to appeal to a Korean audience, so the kind of character that would appeal would be different – there would be differences…I’m trying not to be overly general while also trying to generalize, but you know what I mean, right?
Anisa: Yeah. I would love to hear if any of our listeners have watched Younger and what they think about the difference between the two dramas.
Saya: Maybe we should like test watch a couple of episodes, just to see.
Anisa: Yeah, so I agree, I really – I think the star of this show is Kang Dan-i – Like, she’s so – ahhh – everyone is really good, and I really like the character actors and the relationships and I think that the writing is really the star of the show, but just love her journey – it’s kind of hard to watch at times but it is so nice to just see her kind of blooming and coming into her own and getting that inspiration to start over from the beginning and have a new start and move on from her past, and then like this sort of bomb shell of Cha Eun-ho – that she’s just been hit with – and she’s just like, oh my God. But I just have to say one thing, this is really shallow and I normally don’t care, but oh my God her haircut – it’s the worst. Like Lee Na-young is so beautiful and I’m just and like she always has this terrible hair cut and finally she’s coming back – it’s been a year – she’ll have a different haircut, and then it’s like no, she has these horrible bangs that cover half of her head…oh my God.
Saya: Maybe they’re saving it…
Paroma: I don’t think they are saving…because she already had the “makeover moment” when Eun-ho took her to get like a whole pretty woman dress-up thing done, and she went back to wearing exactly the clothes that she was wearing before.
Anisa: Yeah and also like…I don’t have a huge problem with her clothes – I just want her to get a better haircut.
Saya: Yeah, like her wedding hair was the actual worst and that was your first… literally the first glimpse of this actress and you are like – I don’t understand.
Paroma; Do you really have high expectations of hairdo’s because I thought her hairdo was really nice with her long neck and…
Saya: Yeah, but, that’s not her hair.
Paroma: But that’s part of what the hairdo’s supposed to do, right? Enhance your features and stuff, I don’t know – it made her look younger than when she…
Anisa: That was one day – the wedding, okay, whatever, it was a disaster wedding, so it’s fine if her hair was…
Saya: Laughs. I’m just laughing about how long we are talking about her hair.
Paroma: And since we are being shallow, what are you guys noticing? I just keep noticing how adorable her smile is, how are you noticing her right now?
Anisa: Yeah, but eyebrows are so important for expression and it really bothers me that we can’t see half of her face because she’s such a good actress.
Paroma: Fair enough. We are going to come to this – definitely later when we talk about Lee Dong-wook – I’m going to complain about his bangs there, but coming back to this one, since we are being shallow
Saya: Oh are we still being shallow? Okay – when you finish being shallow tell me, because then I have something to add.
Paroma: Okay. Can we just acknowledge that Lee Jong-suk has just suddenly settled into a grown-up face? I think Pinocchio was the last one where he looked like he was, I don’t know something was proportional about his face and then he was growing up – I’m pretty sure he was going through growth spurts because suddenly I was like…
Anisa: Isn’t he like 28?
Paroma: Yeah, I know, but his growth spurt came late.
Saya: And yeah, maybe he’s improved his face by artificial means, but it does look a little bit better – maybe he’s just healthier, maybe he’s been eating better.
Anisa: I don’t know…he looks the same to me.
Saya: I saw someone doing like a photo comparison of him a few years ago and him now and his nose did look different, so
Paroma: I am not even getting into that…I do not want to talk about any of these speculations, I hate it when I read about this stuff
Saya: You don’t notice these things gradually, but when you get sort of a contrast with years between…
Paroma: Yeah, but if you look at my nose now and 10 years before, I promise you are going to think I got a pretty botched up nose job done.
Anisa: Okay, well, maybe I’m just not observant but I don’t see a difference, but I’m happy for you, P –
Paroma: I’m just saying, he’s more beautiful than ever – moving on, I’m done with the shallow part now. Laughs.
Anisa: Alright, Saya.
Saya: Before we leave the shallow part, I just want to add one thing to the shallow part – which is that Lee Jong-suk is an actor that I feel that in pictures and photos he doesn’t…he’s not as appealing 2D as he is 3D – like when he’s acting and he’s in motion and he’s talking, you can really see why people find him compelling.
Anisa: Yeah, I don’t actually find him very pretty, but he’s such a good actor that it doesn’t matter.
Saya: Right, exactly, and then his acting is just so charismatic that it gives life to his face, which doesn’t always translate from photos, like I don’t always find him as appealing from photos as I do when he’s a living breathing character. So Im done with being shallow.
Anisa: So, what was the real thing that you wanted to say?
Saya: The thing I was going to say was about Lee Na-young and how Dan-i’s return to work kind of mirrors Lee Na-young’s return to the screen as well, because she’s been away from the screen for a long time and it felt like that was a nice mirroring and maybe adds a bit to her character as well. And the other thing is that this writer, and I forgot to look up the name, which I should remember but I don’t – but this is the writer of the I Need Romance franchise and stuff and Discovery of Romance as well. This writer is always – she writes these very textured female characters and often they are like quite jaded or they’re bitter or they’re hurt, but with Dan-i, I think the most relatable aspect of her is how she is a disappointed heroine, and that is something that I find really personally relatable, is the disappointed woman. She’s lived a certain way and she is – her world has changed and she has to find a way to fit back into that world again, and it reminds me a lot of Choi Ji-woo in Twenty Again, with that same kind of inner dignity and that sort of spirit that won’t be crushed despite her circumstances. I really like that.
Anisa: And I love the balance between her being smart and having really good ideas and also having a lot to learn at the same time, so it’s not like one of the other – she’s not a genius and she’s not like completely dumb and she doesn’t know anything.
Saya: Yeah, when she starts at Gyeoroo and she’s a rookie – you know the way you have – like it’s a trope of the rookie’s luck and the way they succeed? Her success at work is not quite rookie’s luck, which we do love, and we always support, but it’s because she knows how to do this job, she’s good at all of this stuff, she just has not had a – she’s not got her break and she’s finally got her break and she’s taking advantage of every possible opportunity to make herself more and more indispensable and to learn more and more of the new world of the job that she’s in.
Anisa: Can I also say how much I love her relationship with the Marketing Teamjang– I can’t remember her name
Saya: Yeah, the three of them, though
Anisa: Yeah…Ms. Go…Director Go…
Saya: At the end of episode 8 they had this amazing…
Anisa: That was such a great outing.
Saya: That was so good!
Anisa: So hilarious, and also heartwarming.
Paroma: Something that I found very interesting about they way they pitched Director Go is that she is the typical female rival of the main protagonist –
Saya: She presented that way in the beginning and you kind of hate her.
Paroma: She was trying to bring the protagonist down, but then Dan-i realizes that – the first instance of that was when Dan-i thought that Dr. Go had stolen her idea and pitched it as her own.
Saya: We all thought that!
Paroma: It was pitched like that. Everybody in the drama, everybody around her thought the same – Eun-ho thought that and so did…let’s just call her Song Hae-rin – everybody thought that and then you had Dan-i discovering that no, Director Go had the same idea, she just was absurdly – it is a personality flaw in her – it was a personality flaw in Director Go that she couldn’t have taken a moment out and said that, look, this is the idea that I had. Because Dan-i said that if you had that idea, why didn’t you just tell me that you had the paper, so I wouldn’t have felt this crushed – and she could have said it, but she just chose not to because she thought Dan-i had no place giving her the idea in the first place – that is a personality flaw in Director Go. I mean she’s still doing things that – she’s not quite mean to Dan-i but she’s not accepting of Dan-i yet either. She notices Dan-i contributing and she smiles, so you see that she’s actually adjusting to the idea that Dan-i is actually capable and smart, but – because something happens in episode 11 and you guys haven’t watched it so I don’t want to spoil it and I’m just really waiting to see how that is resolved in this episode – like, I’m going to watch it tonight – like right after we finish the podcast I’m going to go watch it and I’m like holding my breath because the preview was crushing and I’m just like – Don’t do it Director Go!
Anisa: Okay, okay – no more. On a side note, in general all of the office stuff is really…I really find it very moving and interesting and funny. The two coworkers that join the company at the same time as Dan-i are hilarious – and then there is like the two team directors who are like divorced…
Paroma: Secretly married and recently divorced and nobody knows that they were married to each other.
Saya: Everybody knows, but the newbies didn’t know.
Anisa: The newbies didn’t know, everyone else knew.
Paroma: Oh, okay.
Saya: And nobody’s telling the newbies because, why would you? So they’ve constructed this whole story…
Paroma: It was heartbreaking – I didn’t even realize that I had gotten attached to them but then but then suddenly when that divorce line came and you had the episode giving these two and their grief some time separately and I was really feeling heartbroken for them and I had not realized that…
Anisa: That scene on the bus where she’s like I’m so happy and then they get on the bus and both of them just start sobbing and I was like – oh my God. Also, these two actors are some of my favorite character actors – both of them – they’re always so good.
Saya: I was worried that they’d try to get them back together again and I’m so glad that it just isn’t going that way – it’s like, yeah, people break up – but they’re still in each other’s lives.
Paroma: And I like how they are both in each other’s corners – still – because it’s like how – what’s her name – the marketing teamjang – I’m just going to call her teamjang – when she was defending her ex-husband to the chairman of the publishing house, she said that he was not a bad man – he is a really good man, it is just that the way he decided to live his life meant that he never seemed to understand her frustrations. He cared about everybody around and their problems and always tried to help them, but she couldn’t get through to him and he couldn’t understand why certain things were frustrating to her and that was not what you expect from your life partner. So I loved how that entire thing unfolded and I liked the part after that – that happened like half way through, and now we are seeing the post-divorce period where they are still – they are sweet to each other in small ways and you see that they still care about each other – I wish more dramas had stuff like this.
Saya: I wouldn’t say it was sweet – I would say that they are kind to each other – sweetness is kind of a different quality, but also the other thing is that the actual words she said is I didn’t divorce him because he’s a bad person, I divorced him because it was too hard – it was a personal thing for her – she had to do it for herself.
Anisa: It was too tiring to be his wife.
Saya: Exactly – and also, when she explains it – when the three women are together and she recounts the shoe-shopping scene – it was just like, I felt that and I felt it so deeply – it’s something that’s really – I think I have experienced it many times myself, and like, I just understood that – I get you – stop making excuses for the other person when the person whose side you should be on is me, who is next to you – you know? And it was such a –
Anisa: This writer just does such a good job.
Saya: Yeah – so true to life.
Anisa: Such a good job with these like small, but very important character moments and that is what really breathes life into the whole cast. Just one last thing, everything else really works for me, but this whole storyline with the writer who is like – I think he has Alzheimers at this point – I’m guessing – and he’s like – Eun-ho’s teacher?
Saya: But didn’t he at one point say it was his father? I’m confused.
Paroma: No, I think he said his father in a sort of like – I think he’s my father type of situation – we know it’s not his father, it’s the second lead’s father – it’s been made very obvious in at least 90 different ways by now
Saya: Wait, what?
Paroma: Yeah, it’s the second lead’s father.
Saya: No – it’s a spoiler!!!! I think you’ve just ruined something!
Paroma: Are you serious? You haven’t figured it out?
Saya: How can it be?
Anisa: I mean, I think we have clues that it might be his father, but I don’t think they’ve told us.
Paroma: No, no – it’s not been revealed – it’s my speculation completely – I’m just gathering the clues.
Anisa: Yeah, that whole storyline with the locked room and the creepy stalker tendencies and this mysterious author – I don’t know – it doesn’t jive with the rest of the drama.
Paroma: it feels unnecessary, because the rest of the story has enough material to keep us – this is one of those stories where every episode and every living moment is enjoyable for us to watch – we don’t need another mystery to back it up.
Paroma: Just the story of Eun-ho’s crush on Dan-i extending back to who knows how long – and oh my God – you know what I really like? Initially in the first couple of episodes, Eun-ho seemed very – not aloof – but he didn’t seem to care that deeply about Dan-i, but then the more they spend time together and the more he opened up – this is after he found out about the fact that she divorced – it seemed to me that for so many years that she had been married to her jerkwad ex-husband – he had sort of tried to distance himself from her, to the point where they barely had communication with each other aside from conversations they had on the phone and stuff so that he – she could keep the divorce from him for almost a year – that’s just, that’s insane.
Saya: He didn’t insert himself into the relationship between her and her husband, he’s actively maintained that distance.
Paroma: Exactly – that’s what I mean.
Saya: Like he says to her later when he does confess to her, or when she discovers his feelings, he’s like I’m fine because this happens – people do this – they can love someone and never like take it further than that – they can be in love with one person and have relationships other people, they can be in love with one person and just know that that’s a relationship that’s never going to happen, and it’s like that’s one love that they have – it’s there and it’s always there and they are still living their life – he’s still living his life.
Paroma: Yeah – I love that one line he said – where he’s like it’s not like I can’t live without you, I’m not going to risk my life just because I’m in love with you.
Anisa: Thank you!
Saya: I feel like he’s lying though – it’s a great line but I feel like there’s an amount of lying in it.
Paroma: He’s already been through this.
Anisa: And also – nobody dies of a broken heart.
Saya: But he’s reached this moment where he’s going to give himself a shot, but if she’s not going to accept it then he’s like okay, well, I’ll just move on then
Paroma: Fair enough – but that is only because Dan-i is giving such clear clues that she does care about him – she just hasn’t realized, because she’s an idiot and because she’s stuck in her head that I’m the noona, he’s the dongsaeng –
Saya: She’s fresh out of a relationship.
Paroma: Fresh out? It’s been a year.
Saya: Yeah but she’s had a tough year –
Paroma: I realize that – maybe a year is not enough time for you to get over heartbreak – that’s understandable, but the way her previous relationship had been shown to us, the last few years hadn’t been pleasant and she is still recovering – both emotionally, but more importantly financially.
Anisa: But she’s also just not a very observant person about other people’s feelings.
Saya: But relationships are just not necessarily at that point – they are not about feelings they are about habit – so she’s in a mental routine – and a mental rut of being a certain way, and to sort of upend everything and see it all differently. Yes, she is not picking up all of the clues that he is dropping – that’s because of the way that she views that relationship – the nature of their relationship is that it is easy for them to talk about their feelings. Like Eun-ho can easily say to her, “Saranghae, Kang Dan-i,” and it doesn’t mean anything, even though it means everything – they can say that to each other because of the safety of the friend zone even while he doesn’t mean it that way – and there is this great, like – the way they show the two different perspectives, is that there are things in the history which to him have a special meaning – like the winter coat that she bought him with her first paycheck and he’s like, but why, but why? Because to him it has a special meaning, but to her it was because it was cold, so I really like the way that they’ve shown that things that had a special meaning to him, to her they didn’t have that same weight – she was just like – this is what I did for my dongsaeng – it was cold, so I got you a coat, and he’s like, she got me a coat with her first paycheck! It’s cast completely differently, depending upon the way that you look at it.
Paroma And that really adorable moment where they are like talking and Dan-i says that I just need just one person in my life who understands me completely and he’s like – that’s me, right? – and Dan-i’s like, of course, and there is this super cute dance – that’s the moment when you realize his crush is epic level – ahhh!
Saya: Like, it’s so epic that it might never be real and he’s okay with that.
Paroma: Yeah, I think by now, he’s loved her for so long, and had his heart broken and yeah – she might never look at him in any other capacity than a brother and a friend – it just – he’s gotten used to that and yeah, I agree, I think he – now, right now, he’s in that moment where he’s suspecting that Dan-I might actually reciprocate so he’s going for it but I don’t know…
Saya: He might actually be able to see him differently.
Paroma: Yeah – now he’s bringing his full charm to her – like, he’s never done this before – he’s clearly – you can see with his interaction with Song Hae-rin – where they have a sunbae/hoobae relationship that when he acts like a more mature adult, and he does the whole – he has a certain charm. You can see why Song Hae-rin is so head over heels – which by the way, I love Song Hae-rin so much.
Anisa: Yeah – I love her. Hae-rin is the best.
Saya: She’s great.
Anisa: I love the actress and she’s like, so good in this role.
Saya: Can we talk about the writing for a second? Because, like, that rejection was amazing.
Paroma: So well done, man, so well done.
Anisa: All the writing is so good.
Paroma: And I love that all of these confessions or rejections are often just literally – there are book metaphors or lines from poetry – like that moment when Eun-ho says that the moonlight is beautiful and she doesn’t get it –
Saya: She’s the one who told him it!
Paroma: Yeah! Exactly! And later when she’s suspecting that he might have feelings for her and she looks at him and he’s like, that’s why I said that the moon is beautiful – or that something else is beautiful and she looks at him and is like, wait, is he confessing to me? Is that what is happening?
Anisa: She’s a little dense when it comes to emotions. Laughs.
Paroma: Allusions through this drama – It’s beautifully done. Do you remember the book metaphor that Dan-i makes to the second lead who, again, whose name I’ve forgotten
Saya: I think I call him Sung ho – which is his character name in Pretty Noona – laughs.
Anisa: Oh, I forgot about that.
Paroma: I forgot he was in Pretty Noona.
Anisa: I wiped that from my memory.
Paroma: Yeah, actually, large portions of that are completely gone from my head. So the metaphors that she uses – there is this book that I have read so many times before, but now that I open it, it’s different and she’s talking about Eun-ho and the second lead – that guy – he says maybe it is not the book that has changed, but the heart of the reader. And just – every time they do this I’m like – the writing is so good in this drama!
Saya: Eun-ho is – he’s so clearly the creation of a female mind – he is – he’s utterly fantastical fantasy, perfect hero – who is perfect, but not too perfect.
Anisa: I think that the drama is like 3% a little bit too precious and pretentious at time – it’s a writer’s drama, but I think because of the kind of people we are, we just enjoy that.
Saya: At the same time as knowing that, that doesn’t stop you from buying his character in the living breathing flesh – I buy this, even though he’s fictional, clearly fictional, could not exist in real life, you are still like – I’m buying what you are selling.
Anisa: Yeah and that cast really carries it – so it fills up that 3% that is just a little bit too much, you know?
Paroma: That’s only you, Anisa.
Anisa: I’m the one with the cynical and cold heart in this trio – I already know that.
Paroma: So, a final point before we move onto the next drama which is Touch Your Heart – this point is related to something I have to say about Lee Dong-wook’s character in Touch Your Heart – Eun-ho is never expected to swoop in and save her – in her workplace, whenever she has issue, he surprisingly isn’t the one who comes in and kind of goes against the evil Director Go and says oh no, you cannot do this to her, he just doesn’t do those heroic moments. His part in the story is to be supportive and to encourage her and for her to stand up for herself, and I have never seen it done like this and I love it so much. I was really surprised when he didn’t stand up for her – like in the first meeting, when he thought that that particular line that Kang Dan-i thought was stolen – he thought that too, but he didn’t do the traditional standing up that heroes usually do in these scenes. He didn’t do it and it was amazing – and also, how he respects the hierarchy of the publishing house. There was another moment when Kang Dan-i was pulled off something that she had worked hard on and Director Go had her reasons, and she laid them out, and Song Hae rin and Cha Eun-ho both agreed that – okay these are logical reasons, even though they didn’t like it and they agreed with it – obviously that means that our protagonist Kang Dan-i has to suffer, but instead of going up against Director Go’s dictate, he just tells her that you can’t always be this strict with your reasoning – he just tries to be more empathetic, so yeah, I love how his character has been that way.
Saya: I’m just going to add one more thing…it also ties to the way that he – Oh Ji-yool, when she makes that mistake, that horrible, horrible mistake in the book and –
Paroma: I never realized how much of a bad mistake it is until the drama emphasized it.
Saya: It’s like the actual worst, but like, he’s a tough taskmaster at work, but he’s not unfair. He tells Ji-yool to find a sense of pride and diligence in her work or rethink why she’s there at all, and all of that without telling her that she’s bad or to leave, because everyone else is telling her, Why don’t you just leave? Just hand in your resignation. He’s teaching her – he takes the time to teach her while also pointing out how wrong she is – because he asked her – Oh, do you find this unfair? And she was like, Yeah – a bit – and that’s the answer that he wanted to hear so that he could point out to her that that’s a wrong way that she’s thinking in that case. She had made the mistake and she should have owned it and she should be ashamed of it – which I thought was a really interesting way to impart that lesson – it was really well done – and yet totally perfect.
Anisa: Yeah, that’s a great scene. So you were saying to connect this to our next…
Paroma: Oh…okay, to connect this to our next drama which I think, pretty much, all of us really loves equally thought I’m a little partial to romance, with Lee Dong-wook’s character and how he swoops in to save Yoo In-na’s character –
Anisa: This is Touch Your Heart, also known as Reach of Sincerity, and her name is Oh Yeon-seo, and his name is Kwon Jung-rok.
Paroma: I’m just going to stick with Lee Dong-wook. Okay, so getting back to my point about Lee Jong-suk’s – how his character is done in Romance is a Bonus Book versus how Lee Dong-wook’s character is done in Reach of Sincerity/Touch Your Heart – and see Lee Dong-wook’s character – I love his character, all of that stuff aside, I just wanted to compare how in both dramas you have the heroines coming to a new workplace and in case of Yoo In-na she’s been an out-of-work actress for two years, she’s had bad scandals and stuff and she’s coming into her workplace where the work is completely new to her, so she’s learning everything from the ground up. She’s not even done stuff like driving herself, so when she does these small things for herself, these are just – these are building blocks of her character arc, where she learns to do things for herself and I really enjoyed watching that, but you have these moments in this drama where Lee Dong-wook literally comes in to save her from like a man who’s harassing her, there is a guy who deliberately blocks her car and then tries to climb on her window, tries to get her out, tries to stiff her for car damages – my point is he keeps on swooping in to save her and that is very traditional drama hero – because it’s impossible to not compare the two dramas because they are airing simultaneously and have that certain something that is similar about their basic premise – yes, I found that interesting.
Saya: I actually find him a really different hero.
Paroma: Yeah he is, that was my point.
Saya: But, in the sense that, I don’t see a lot of similarity between them at all.
Paroma: No there isn’t, aside from one thing that he does have, where he is willing to teach his secretary – she has a willingness to learn so he’s willing to teach her, so I do like that
Saya: I see that a little bit differently, because in the – it’s not that he’s willing to teach her so much, it’s that he’s willing to admit that he was wrong about his preconceptions about that, I see that as him not letting his prejudices get in the way of him recognizing that she’s not what he thought she was.
Anisa: Yeah, but that’s true, but on the other hand – if I was in his position and this actress who never learned anything about the job she is suddenly doing, and that she only got because of connections, suddenly showed up in my office –
Saya: Like, his treatment of her is justified.
Anisa: In some ways, and like, he’s not actually cruel, he’s just a little abrupt. He’s actually really a kind person – he’s just, like, a robot. He’s not very good at expressing his emotions. I really love their dynamic.
Paroma: Are you guys up to date with the episodes?
Saya: No, I’m like two episodes behind – Go ahead and talk about them, because I don’t feel like there’s a lot of spoiler stuff here.
Paroma: There’s not a huge spoiler, it’s simply that they start dating at this point – they are at the initial stages of dating, which is – of course – what we were waiting for (yay), but it’s sweet to watch Lee Dong-wook’s character sort of open up and they communicate very well – whenever there’s an issue between the two of them, they actually sit down and talk about it. Something that I found really interesting is how her character has been built to be a very stereotypical female but she’s also competent and intelligent. She’s resourceful – she just doesn’t realize any of those things about herself, since she spent years of her life while she was a star being told that she’s dumb, and she’s not actually. And the resources that she thinks that she has are her beauty and her celebrity – that seems to be what she thinks of herself, and Lee Dong-wook from the very beginning doesn’t see those things – he sees that she’s pretty of course, but he doesn’t give her the recognition of being a celebrity that she usually expects from everyone.
Saya: He literally doesn’t know who she is.
Paroma: I think one of my favorite moments was when she was trying to reenact all her ads, trying to get a reaction out of him. But Yoo In-na is so amazing in this role – I don’t think I could have tolerated any other actress playing this sort of dumb blonde version of Korean drama heroines.
Anisa: She was perfectly cast in this character. You know she does that, kind of – it’s not really aegyo – she has this really cute personality that usually kind of drives me nuts and is irritating, but when she does it I’m like – oh you’re so cute!
Saya: And she’s like so sweet as well – she’s not vicious – she doesn’t have a different agenda – everything you see –
Paroma: Is what you get.
Saya: She is what she is – exactly.
Anisa: She just so unabashedly herself.
Saya: I love her. What’s so great about her – is how she swoons over every little thing – she’s just sitting in bed punching her sheets…
Anisa: It’s so pure.
Saya: That’s exactly the word. It’s very pure-hearted.
Paroma: Despite everyone telling us that this is the reincarnated version of the Goblin couple, I see no hint of Goblin’s Sunny in her, or the Grim Reaper in this version of the drama.
Saya: Sunny is probably my favorite character of hers, but it was totally different.
Paroma: She was not cynical, but she was very blase.
Anisa: Yeah, I think that the only similarity is the way that the dynamic is that she totally opens her heart to him and he’s like – oh, what do I do, I don’t know how to feel emotions – that dynamic is still kind of there, but other than that their characters are really different
Saya: I really like how she takes the lead in their relationship as well, and like he’s the clueless one, and she is the one who is taking all of the steps forward for them.
Anisa: So that was how it kind of was in Goblin too, right, he’s like what is happening?
Saya: He’s like what is this thing with which you are trying to induct me?
Anisa: Yeah, what I really like the most about this is that, you’re right Paroma, there are a lot of hero moments where he saves her and there’s a lot of – and sometimes you feel like they’re ticking off clichés from a checklist, but on the other hand there are some really good character details that do make it feel fresh. So like you do have – there is a reason why her personality is the way it is – it’s because she debuted in high school and she’s always had manager Oppas and people around her, and she’s lived a really isolated and sheltered life, so they built the character really well, and she plays it really well. There’s all these little moments where she’s like experiencing normal life things for the first time and then you have her coworkers who are watching this duckling find her legs – it’s just so cute – it’s so nice, and then there’s Jung-rok who at first glance looks like a cold lawyer type that you’ve seen in a million dramas but then you see he’s like extremely cute and he has a really soft heart and he just doesn’t express it and it’s really nice.
Saya: And I love that little bit that they do, you know when in the beginning when she first meets him, and he just rattles off what he’s going to say and goes, keurom – she’s baffled by this – it’s not even a bye – it’s I’m done here and then later when she’s having her little revenge on him, she’s like keurom – at the end.
Anisa: And she like turns on her heel.
Saya: And he’s left like utterly baffled by what just happened – why did she keurom me…and she keeps doing it and it’s great.
Paroma: Oh yeah, her petty revenge is like the best.
Anisa: The plot is a little bit slow, but I don’t care.
Saya: You are not watching it for plot, you are watching it for all of their
Anisa: I also love and Lawyer Dan and Lawyer Choi – they’re so cute.
Paroma: I appreciate that, though that initially when they had introduced Yoo In-na’s character, they – she couldn’t figure out there were pills in the bottle and you aren’t supposed to have them together, which was just a ridiculous level of dumb…just unimaginable level of dumb.
Anisa: She just has zero practical skills at life, because everything is always done for her.
Paroma: I suppose that is what they were going for, but maybe this is not the best example – I’m just saying because pills are something that even really sheltered stars would have at least some experience with – I’m just saying. Ok, but what I liked was when she has her petty revenge, it would have been very easy to turn her into this unprofessional woman, instead even when she’s being petty she’s not being incompetent. I think one of my favorite moments was when she’s really pissed off at Lee Dong-wook and he’s like I need these files at 4:00, and she’s like I won’t get them done by 4:00 – I will get them done by 5 past 4:00 laughs.
Anisa: Yeah, that was great.
Saya: And that’s preceded by how her revenge actually is: I’m going to be the most perfect secretery ever, until you can’t live without me. This is great – you both get what you want.
Anisa: Yeah, we are at the half-way point, so things are probably going to get more serious now, but –
Paroma: There is that stalker element that they are introducing – I don’t know if I want this.
Anisa: I mean I don’t hate it, because it was kind of set up from the beginning in some ways, and there has to be some conflict – there is like zero conflict in the drama –
Saya: And also, you have to make use of that hot shot lawyer boyfriend.
Anisa: And it’s not just about him, it’s about her kind of regaining her reputation on her own terms, so even if she doesn’t end up going back to acting, which like, she’s a terrible actress so maybe she might just be an amazing legal secretary, but it would be nice for her to end that chapter in her life on a good note and just move on for her own self-actualization.
Paroma: Because it was pretty clear that what happened with her was that she been roofied and kind of framed
Anisa: Yeah, and like with the cases I’ve been consistently seeing a theme with women who get victimized by society so maybe they are trying to make a broader point with that.
Paroma: I have two questions for you guys – the first is about the court cases, how do you guys feel about how they handled the last one – the most recent one – not the most recent one, the one where you know you had Lee Dong-wook not just bringing in and proving that the prosecutor hadn’t done their job but to show them who the real killer was, which is not something that would ever happen in a real court case – it was not even – I mean – it would have been enough for them to throw out the case on the basis of not enough evidence…
Anisa: I’m not watching this for the legal stuff.
Paroma: I know, but I just felt really bad because you have a disabled person in the courtroom and there was like no support, he had just been brought in there by saying that don’t you want to help the woman that you like so much – it just felt like he was brought in on false pretenses and then smacked with – you did the killing – and I hated that entire thing
Anisa: It wasn’t great.
Saya: Our friend Helcat on Dramabeans made a really interesting note on this in her recap, about how very unlikely it is for a person with that kind of learning disability to actually commit those crimes and how disproportionately that’s represented in dramas. I thought that was a really valid and useful point to make – is that they tend to be victims and not perpetrators.
Paroma: I thought that they had just left that thing hanging and then moved on but it seems to me that they are probably going to come back and I hope that they do because that kid needs a good defense lawyer. At this point I just hate that they did that horrible thing and then they moved on to a romantic moment and I just didn’t feel it.
Anisa: Yeah and it was in service of that mopey female prosecutor’s arc, which I don’t care about to be quite honest.
Paroma: I don’t actually understand the second lead couple at all. I sort of like the guy I suppose, but even his purpose is pretty much a waste
Anisa: It’s Kim So-young’s husband so we have to love him, but…! He’s very good in everything, but that haircut makes him look like a gopher. The haircuts have been bothering me this month.
Paroma: Lee Dong-wook’s haircut is not the best.
Anisa: I know, I was talking about Kim So young’s husband’s haircut…it makes him look like a gopher which is unfortunate because he’s a handsome man!
Saya: I feel like even with the hair, the handsomeness is clear.
Paroma: I just want you both to acknowledge that both cuts do not suit Lee Dong-wook and he needs to stop with this now. This is the first time a haircut is actually bothering me to this extent. What is he doing with that haircut? Why does he have those bangs? It’s awful.
Anisa: Nobody needs the tousled helmet hair, it doesn’t look good on anyone. This trend needs to be over.
Paroma: What are we talking about next?
Anisa: The Crowned Clown.
Paroma: Oh – okay – I’ve been like walking around as I talk…
Anisa: You got so worked up about the haircut.
Paroma: So, I’m not caught up with The Crowned Clown, but I’m at that point where – a couple of episodes after where the clown has been – okay now I’m really terrible at recalling the episodes – I’m sorry. I think I’m on episode 7 or 8 right now – I’m not that far but a lot happens in every episode. Each episode is like an hour and 15 minutes…it’s insane, and every time I watch a full episode I feel like I’ve watched a movie – so much happens in these episodes. And they’re just gorgeous but that’s another topic. So, we’ve already discussed the premise here: you have the actual king who has kind of gone into hiding because there are assassins who are after his life, and you have the clown who is the look-a-like who has been brought in to replace the king and to be the target. If someone needs to die the clown can die and then the real king can come back.
Saya: I don’t understand the logic of that, because once your doppelganger dies, you don’t have any more spares.
Paroma: But I think what they are trying to do is keep the king safe while figuring out who is targeting the king. That was the initial idea.
Saya: In order to keep the king safe, they need to keep his body double safe too.
Paroma: Yeah, I think they are trying to do that.
Saya: I don’t think so – they are like, your job is to die in place of the king.
Paroma: It is a high risk – yeah, they are being a bit blasé about it.
Saya: Can I just talk a little bit about the early on part? So you know how we were talking last time about how dark it got so quickly? And then in the next episode it got so dark I was like dying inside, with his sister, and oh my God that was awful.
Paroma: I didn’t think they would go there – I honestly thought there would be some last-minute saving done.
Saya: It was so horrible. It was so horrible. Yeah, I could barely watch it, I was like crying just watching that and but I love the queen – the queen is amazing.
Paroma: Yeah, the queen is amazing. I knew her potential when she was a zombie, but now her potential has been more properly revealed. Those eyes!
Saya: Just – her whole everything, her bone structure, everything, like I can’t actually imagine her as a modern-day woman, that is the most perfect look for her. But, now that you want to talk about serious plot things, should I take my headphones off? Because I don’t want to be spoiled.
Paroma: I’m not going to be spoiling, because even though a lot happens, if I get into it…I’m just going to say some basic stuff. The king, who is in hiding, it’s not like he’s just hiding to save his life. His mind is unraveling. After he did those horrible deeds in the first episode, he’s been haunted –
Saya: He’s been drugged up.
Paroma: He’s also been drugged up. Over the years he’s – he’s sort of trying but I think he’s still getting access to drugs – the minister is supporting him… he’s trying but yeah, anyway that is happening – whereas the evil minister (I’m just going to call them good minister and evil minister) even though the good minister –
Saya: Pro-king and anti-king.
Paroma: But the bad minister isn’t anti-king exactly – he wants that king there, but there as his puppet.
Saya: Okay, good and bad, that will do.
Paroma: So the good minister, who is also super shady, in that morally ambivalent way – he wants the good of the nation and has had to dirty his hands, and at this point can’t really figure out what the right and wrong parts are any more because he’s been so mired in really bad stuff for so long trying to protect the king. On the other hand, the evil minister has been, as you said, drugging the king for so long that the king can’t think straight – he’s super paranoid – he can’t even trust the person who wants to protect him the most or his wife who loves him, and it just – it was a really bad space. So, he has gone back to this monk’s place, where he’s basically drugging himself and being haunted by his past deeds literally and metaphorically. So that is happening with him and the good minister is trying real hard to get the king back on his feet while the clown is basically doing whatever he wants to do.
Saya: He’s trying to get his revenge on his sister’s rapist.
Paroma: He is, but it’s not so much that – his revenge isn’t exactly taking off very well, because he is actually kind of powerless – the real king has made sure that the king’s clone has not a lot of power.
Saya: Well, it doesn’t help that he can’t read.
Paroma: Oh, but here is where it gets interesting as soon as you watch a little bit more. He loves to read, because he’s actually pretty smart. He might be smart, but he doesn’t have knowledge…
Saya: He’s not a politician.
Paroma: He’s not a politician, and this drama keeps emphasizing how a real king was a proper scholar – he read day and night – if there was knowledge to be had he had it, which is why so many people had so much expectation from him.
Saya: It makes you wonder how he ended up that way.
Paroma: Exactly, and they are getting into it – it’s not like they are completely writing the king off, and I’m pretty sure the king is at some point going to come back, but the point where it got – and I’m not going to go beyond that point – the point where it got really interesting which is about an episode after what you’ve watched, is when the king kind of harms himself, and the good minister is like we need a king at this point and I cannot bring the real king back, so the clown will have to be – actually do the king’s work. So, he there is this moment where he is like – the king is dead and you are the king now, and so he expects now to actually take on the responsibilities of the king – the only thing is that the clown is not jaded and he doesn’t understand court politics in the way someone who’s been brought up in court would, so any time the minister talks about the longer gain and you know – you have to think about the good of the million – even if you have to sacrifice a few, the clown doesn’t get it – he wants to do good by the people that he knows, because he sees that as justice, he doesn’t understand that whole sacrifice and long game thing…and as a hero that’s what you want, you don’t want the hero to ignore the sufferings of the few for the larger goal, that is not what we see as heroic, but it’s a fine balance. He’s learning politics too, and he’s also trying to navigate the court so that his secret is not revealed, and this is a drama where there’s so many spoilers and I can’t…
Saya: If you want to say them I’ll take my headphones out.
Paroma: No, no, no – it’s not – it would be more interesting if you watched it.
Anisa: Yeah. You gave us a good broad understanding of what’s going on, so I think that’s cool.
Paroma: Yeah, I just hope that our listeners who like sageuk and who like interesting court politics give this a try, and also Yeo Jin-goo – Yeo Jin-goo is just mad good.
Saya: I kind of want him to go to the army now and do a Yoo Seung-ho.
Anisa: Yoo Seung-ho went when he was 19.
Paroma: No, I mean like most actors end up going when they are 29 or 30, right?
Saya: Yeah, but he’s been a child actor, he’s so well known – he doesn’t lose anything by going now, whereas other actors tend to stay out that time because if they cut their ascent in the middle, they could lose their momentum, so they have to establish themselves as much as they possibly can, and that’s why they push their enlistment to the very end, but the standard enlistment age is – they finish school or sometimes they finish college, and then they’ll go.
Anisa: A lot of people go in between university too.
Saya: Yeah, exactly, because there’s a lot of different things – for example, if you study medicine, you could do that first and when you enlist you can actually enlist as an army doctor so you don’t have to do active duty in the same way, it’s really – there’s a lot of ways of doing it, but most people do go when they are young. Next up is My Strange Hero. Have either of you finished or caught up?
Anisa: I stopped half-way through and I’m doing that thing where I like something so much I just stop half-way through.
Saya: Oh, you don’t want it to end, yeah.
Paroma: I don’t know which episode it is but I am pretty much – about ¾ in – I know where most of the arcs are going to end up – so go for it.
Saya: It’s so good – I love this show so much. All along it’s been very heartwarming, but the end is a conference of marshmallows and it is uplifting – the whole thrust of the show – it was about the underdogs, it’s about the people that no one believes in, and that no one would stake anything on – it’s about them taking control of their own fate and what happens in the last quarter is that – do you mind my saying this or should I not?
Anisa: Could you be kind of general about it?
Saya: Well, the school is threatened. The existence of the school itself is threatened and they have to all work together to save it and there’s these amazing, wonderful, iconic scenes that when you watch them your heart will just burst.
Anisa: I know that I’m going to want to just binge the entire rest of the drama, which is why I’m waiting until I have like a week off.
Paroma: Yeah, Anisa’s just going to be like sitting one evening and she’s going to be like – I’m just going to watch one episode, and then the next morning she’s going to be like all…
Anisa: I know – with this one I know that I can’t do that, so I’m just waiting until my break…
Saya: Yeah, and it’s not one that you want to speed watch or anything
Anisa: No, I want to enjoy it.
Saya: Every minute of this is just so wonderful and there’s like the emotional realism of it – kind of catches you by the throat almost, and I think my most favorite – I have so many favorite things – I love how like, kind of at the conclusion of it, everyone gets this very appropriate send-off, and everyone gets to complete their arc in a way that is most meaningful – Se-ho gets to be the hero of his own story which is like – he takes up his own space, he’s not sidelined – he’s actually a hero for all of the time that he’s on screen and he overcomes so much. Remember last time when we were talking about how he has no self-awareness? There was this – he has like so many fronts on which to fight, and one of them is his relationship with his mother, and one of the biggest thing is his relationship with Bok-soo and what really happened on the roof and why he did that, the why is so important, and oh – I don’t want to spoil all of the conversations…
Anisa: Yeah, should I take my headphones off?
Saya: Ahhh…I don’t know if Paroma wants to be spoiled!
Paroma: I don’t, I don’t.
Saya: Okay, we will talk about it when you guys watch it, but their dialogue in this show is so good, and the way that they understand all of the different micro-layers of feeling, I really want you guys to finish watching it so we can talk about the last few scenes.
Anisa: Okay, next month. I know I’ll probably watch it during spring break.
Saya: And one last thing before I wrap it up, the other thing I really love about Bok-soo is how as a character he’s something different to everyone – Oh Young-min calls him “Hyung,” Seung-woo and his gang they call him “Oroshin” – and it’s like mocking in the beginning but it almost becomes a term of respect or a term of endearment – it’s like, it’s just the Oroshin he was to them at the beginning to the Oroshin he is to them at the end – it just, it makes your heart burst.
Anisa: I can already tell that that dynamic is going somewhere that’s going to make me cry and make me so happy.
Saya: I love it so much and just, one last tiny scene which hopefully isn’t a spoiler is – it’s not a spoiler to say he graduates, right? It’s after his graduation, he screams and he flies into his mom’s arms and you are like – you are just….
Anisa: His relationship with his mom is just – ahhh – it gets me in the heart, it’s really good.
Saya: It’s really so good. It was all about her in this moment, he did all of this to make her happy. It was just so good – and So-jung is so good – I love her and her fighting spirit, and how even when she tries to be demure it never lasts, she is like okay that’s it – I’m done with the whole nice playing, I’m going to tell you exactly what I think right now and she just like rips into
Anisa: Did you end up being satisfied with the love story – because I remember last time we were just like – ugh – what’s going on here kind of thing
Saya: Oh yeah, completely, I think they resolved everything in a really great way…because in the beginning I wasn’t that convinced – I’m not big into – and Paroma is here – I’m not big into crushes that last forever – if you’ve been in love with someone for nine years or however long like in Romance is a Bonus Book – however long Eun-woo’s been in love with Dan-i – you need to move on with people – just stop, either give it a shot and move on or just move on, so I wasn’t convinced by this whole long, unresolved romance thing , but by the end I was like – I do get it. It was such an unfinished thing and then they fixed it, and it was better than being unbroken – it was the best.
Anisa: Thank you for that beautiful wrap up – I’m so excited to finish it now.
Saya: You’re going to love every minute.
Anisa: Alright guys, The Last Empress.
Saya: So firstly, firstly last time we got an extension – it was topping the ratings every week, so it got a 4 episode i.e. 2 hour extension, but – and I found this out after I watched the whole show, Choi Jin-hyuk was not present for finale week, so he had – yeah, it was very confusing. I was watching the penultimate pair of episodes and being like – where is Choi Jin-hyuk – what happened? I kept expecting some twist to turn up – and I was like – where is he gone? Apparently he had a prior engagement, like a fan-meet in Taiwan or something – but it feels really weird the way he was written out, the way the character was treated – he was a total non-character…
Anisa: But why extend it if they already knew that he wasn’t going to be available?
Saya: I don’t know – I don’t understand. Even if you were going to do that, give him a bit of a hero’s send off if he’s a hero, or something – it was just such a nondescript and weird way to…
Paroma: I agree, it was a completely absurd way to write him out, especially if it doesn’t take a lot – just two scenes where he’s dying – that’s all you need.
Saya: They knew that he was not going to be available, and they knew they had that extension for a couple of weeks, they had enough time if they were going to kill him, to kill him properly, not to do the weird thing that they did.
Paroma: We all know that, while Choi Jin-hyuk is billed as the lead in this one, he’s not at all…and I think –
Saya: It’s just such a disservice to him as an actor as well…
Paroma: I understand that, but think of so many other dramas, Cheese in the Trap for instance. When you have the production team in conflict with an actor they can often be very absurdly mean, how they write off the character, to the detriment of the drama. I think –
Saya: But we don’t know what – if or what has happened, because the only official news is that he had a prior engagement.
Paroma: We don’t, but this is way too suspicious.
Saya: We are wholly speculating here and perhaps we shouldn’t, but that was a very bizarre writing out of his character. I don’t know if it is weirder or the equally weird thing is that Lee Hyuk, the emperor character, suddenly is a hero in the finale and you are like – this is – no!
Anisa: Was it an undeserved redemption then?
Paroma: I have a point here – I think up to episode 45 or so, they were doing a sort of redemption arc for Lee Hyuk but it wasn’t a heroic redemption – it was a redemption where he just comes to realize – he was a villain who was slowly trying to come to realize his faults – even if it was just in respect to what he has done wrong to Sunny, but he was coming to understand that. And then they had a standoff between Na Wang-shik and Lee Hyuk, where Lee Hyuk says “You tried to kill me just because I killed your mother?” But that completely steps back from all of the redemption that he had done before that, so basically you learn nothing –
Saya: Yeah, although I felt that that worked with his character because part of his character’s tragedy –
Paroma: Okay, in which case they should never have backtracked and then made him –
Saya: And made him the hero – yeah.
Paroma: That was so…and what was…I didn’t even understand the purpose of his last heroic act – what was he doing? He just went to his mom’s – to what purpose?
Saya: I feel like there’s an interesting discussion to be had here about the difference between redemption and atonement, because this show has been presented from the beginning as a crazy show of villains against villains with very few non-villains. You basically only had Jang Na-ra who was the only non-villainous character here without sin – yeah and Ah-ri – but then Ah-ri is a bit of a politician as well so she kind of – she plays a part in the whole thing. Of course she’s not a villain, but she is part of the political machinery and she is a member of the royal family. But where was I going with that? So you have the dowager empress who is this completely…she’s just very ruthless and self-centered and she wants what she wants and she will use anyone and anything to get it and she just doesn’t care about the cost. Even if that cost is literally everything – when we talk about how her character later – all of the characters got offered – what all of the villains got offered, rather than redemption, was a chance to atone and the dowager empress gets offered that over and over and she never takes it, whereas Lee Hyuk, he actually – there was that point where when he begins to have feelings for Sunny – he begins to try to change. So his final act, I feel, is successful as an actor for atonement – this is him saying that I hope – I can’t come back from what I have done, so I have just…
Paroma: It would be more believable if he hadn’t done that whole – you are trying to kill me just because your mom moment.
Saya: Yeah, I thought that was weird but also I felt that that demonstrated the fragility of his mind as well, don’t forget that this is a kid who’s been abused – emotionally abused from the moment he sort of was born into the world.
Paroma: I completely agree – and that moment, if it had been placed a little earlier, I would have bought it – but he was changing, and if you are suddenly going to move out of that change give us a more – you can’t immediately come back to this oh he’s changing arc again.
Saya: Maybe he was showing us that the change was like – he had tried to change but it hadn’t fundamentally changed the way that he thought, because –
Paroma: He didn’t understand, he couldn’t even comprehend why.
Saya: Yeah, exactly.
Paroma: So, it’s hard for me to believe that it was atonement just 5 minutes after or 5 episodes later.
Saya: Well, I feel like it worked – because all of his changes I feel were as a result of his feelings for Sunny, so the way he tried to change was to be good to her – everyone else is still irrelevant, he’s still the same person, he fundamentally hasn’t changed, he’s just found someone that he wants to stake everything on.
Paroma: His feelings for Sunny were the lynchpin pretty much, I agree – and you know what I also liked – was how his suspicion of Sunny and Na Wang-shik’s relationship mirrors what happened with his previous relationship, and how when Sunny denies and says pretty much exactly the same words his wife does he has that smack moment where she’s like: I can defend myself but you are going to believe what you believe anyway.
Saya: And that’s like a crossroads for him where he has to make that choice, whether to be the old him or to be a new him.
Paroma: And he choses to be the old him! At first I thought that he was pretending to be the old him by trying to protect Sunny because he has this mental monologue where he’s like Sunny stop – don’t do this, but he was just buckling down on trying to protect his royal heritage – what he cared about was clearly not justice.
Saya: Don’t forget – his real turning point, like after all of that, was his grandmother’s letter and I have to say that the two things that this show started out with – two deaths that were mysterious in mysterious circumstances, the way that they were revealed and the culprits were revealed, genuinely surprised me and shocked me. I found the first empress’s death – that reveal – was like dark. But then the second one – that was also like whoa – and then at the very end, the empresses final scene – that was like beyond dark – that was just – Anisa, do you want us to tell you what happens?
Anisa: I mean I’m not going to watch it.
Saya: Okay, so basically, the dowager empress, who is the single most irredeemable person in the entire show, she goes after Na Wang-shik who is Cho Jin-hyuk’s character. except at this point he’s already disappeared, and it’s Lee Hyuk the emperor who is masquerading as him.
Paroma: Masquerading – even though Lee hyuk knows that Na Wang-shik is dead – he’s floated this rumor that Na Wang-shik is out to get the royal family.
Saya: So he wraps himself in bandages and goes and does something that the dowager empress really doesn’t want – it ruins everything that she has, and she shoots him. She is like, I’m going to do this myself – she doesn’t let her minions do it – she shoots him straight in the chest, like 3 or 4 times and he – in all this time, he hasn’t revealed his identity, and then finally – does she go and de-mask him?
Paroma: She goes and unmasks him.
Saya: And then she’s like – at that moment you expect her to break, like any normal person would break – on discovering that they had just murdered their own son in cold blood, she flat out denies it. She just doesn’t acknowledge it at all – it was so so dark – and then also, in her words there you can hear the echo of the words the Lee Hyuk has said in the past – I didn’t do it – it wasn’t me. He was a product of this, he was created and shaped by this woman and also the late emperor, his father who was as abusive as – if I remember the flashbacks right he was worse towards his young son than the mother was.
Anisa: So on the whole, would you say it was a satisfying watch? Are you glad you watched it?
Saya: It actually was very addictive, it was a really interesting treatment of villains and I felt like if you wanted to write an essay about makjang, and why it works and why people watch it, there’s a lot of material here. There were no heroes to root for, except like Jang Na-ra and like the crown prince, Lee Hyuk’s younger brother. He’s presented as kind of a good figure but he’s not that great – he’s constantly holding up their father as someone who should be admired and respected, but that’s like an accident of birth that he happened to be lucky enough to have the qualities that his dad was looking for, so he never had to suffer the abuse that his brother did but he holds that above him so I found that a really uncomfortable aspect…
Paroma: And also, he knew how the first empress died, and he didn’t actually speak up, he just ran away and then wrote a book about it.
Saya: Yeah, and you could have done this in any other way. But also Yoon So-yi’s character which we haven’t talked about –
Paroma: The mother of Ah-ri.
Saya: It turns out – she was the best friend of the empress, and it turned out that she was the one who actually killed her best friend. And that reveal was like whoa…
Paroma: That was something.
Saya: Yeah, and the way – because they show you how she did it and it was horrible, but I feel like there is a really close mirroring of the character of the dowager empress and the character of Kang So-hee who is like – she slept with the emperor and she was pregnant at the same time as the first empress who was her best friend, and it was because of that that she just went ahead and killed her. Because that’s how power hungry she was, and she’s constantly been using her daughter to get leverage and to gain herself the power that the dowager empress has, and so she’s very similar and in fact her outcome is the same as well – I was actually disappointed in the end that the dowager was not dead, because they’d been sentenced to death.
Paroma: I think it’s more realistic – death sentences are not really immediately carried out.
Saya: That’s a long death row – but it felt – she had been removed from the mortal plane whereas the dowager empress got more of a comical end than she deserved.
Paroma: But then again she was – like her physical comedy – from the dowager empress was just –
Saya: She was brilliant.
Paroma: In the courtroom, when she was being dragged away, the quips she delivered to the cops…I think some of my favorite moments in the second half of the drama had to revolve around Ah-ri and her realizing she was manipulated by her mother, and it just – giving into the manipulation because it is her mother and because So-hee also knew how to appeal to the child’s vanity and her needs, so Ah ri being manipulated was a very interesting thing to watch and despite sort of believing lies about Sunny she also, but with a child’s instinct she also realized that Sunny just wanted things that were good for her whereas her real mother just wanted things from her.
Saya: She can instinctively recognize the truth of each woman’s feelings.
Paroma: Exactly, and I found that – of all the arcs in this drama, it’s Ah-ri’s arc that I love the most. So there is that.
Saya: She’s a terrific actress as well – she had really hard – her lines were so difficult – she had like multiple languages and she is like 9? That’s insane.
Paroma: But I have something against – the grandmother queen – her death was – I think that at that point they had made it so mysterious – layered mystery upon mystery – I think the final conclusion they gave us was written at the last moment. For one thing, it made absolutely no sense if you think of the logic of the initial night –
Saya: How did you expect that to work out for you?
Paroma: Well, yeah – for me or for the grandmother?
Saya: For Grandmum.
Paroma: What her letter revealed is that she killed herself, but by the means that her daughter-in-law and her grandson had tried to use to kill her – so that it furthers the mystery of her death, and that they are brought to justice for killing her. But the thing is, she didn’t actually need to do that, she had proof that could dethrone both of them – that was the whole point of why she was being attacked that night. So she wasn’t killed – and by killing herself she took that moment away – she made a mess of the entire thing – she wrote the letter and immediately killed herself. So, who was there who nicely packed up the letters?
Saya: I totally was like how did that letter get there?
Paroma: And also, how did she know that it would be found by Oh Sunny, it was more likely to be found by her evil family. I just have one last thing to say – even though Na Wang-shik’s character didn’t actually have the heroic element that I’m sure Cho jin-hyuk wanted from his character, he was important – we realized that he was important in his absence – the final leg of the drama kind of fell apart because he was absent, he was a really good foil to Lee Hyuk. So Lee Hyuk’s character development worked well when Na Wang-shik was there as a sort of a balancing act – besides Sunny – Na Wang-shik is the one who selflessly – who is trying to get justice for his mother, even though I don’t like his character, but he’s supposed to be the good guy against Lee Hyuk who is selfish – even his love for Sunny is selfish so you have that – oh – I keep calling her Sun-hee like in Goblin – so that balance actually kept the two male characters nicely jostling – not for the hero position – for the position of the man in her life, and also the good man in the drama. But as soon as Na Wang-shik was gone and killed off in that way – Lee Hyuk had to fill both positions and I don’t think that worked out very well for the drama. I did like how Sunny was going around revealing everything and getting back at everyone in the end, I really like how badass she was, so there is that.
Saya: She was great. I mean, it was always her show. Just one more thing, I know, sorry, it’s long – I love how despite all of the terrible things that were happening, Lee Hyuk was living his best rom-com life. The comedy from the dowager empress was one type, but the Lee Hyuk comedy was hilarious – so I was really disturbed when they tried to give that a romantic tone afterwards.
Anisa: I know that he plays a villain so well, but I kind of want to see him do something light like a romantic comedy.
Saya: Yeah, I think that’s what he needs to do next, just so we can see more of this.
Anisa: Yeah, exactly. Next we have…
Saya: Orange Marmalade?
Paroma: Yeah – I just have like two lines to say about it anyway. I started Orange Marmalade – it’s a 2015 drama and it has Yeo Jin-goo in it – and I was like Korean dramas and vampires – let’s watch that. It’s not actually worked out for me very well before, but this drama is actually sweet. The vampires in this world – they appeared sometime in the 17th century – they just appeared, nobody knows their origin and they have become a sort of second-class citizen – they have had to hold back their instincts and survive on animal blood, but everybody is very racist, so whenever anyone finds out that there’s a vampire in your neighborhood, they spread the news to everybody and they treat them like an outcast – they don’t get any work – so there is a lot of resentment in part of the population and in part of the population there is this defeated acceptance, this is the only way that we can be.
Saya: So it’s a version of racism.
Paroma: It is a version of racism. There is this very strict code that they have to follow and anyone who breaks it is kind of put under placement – which is where they are locked up by sort of a vampire council – they are locked up for like 15 years in sort of a coffin-type situation – and they live longer lives than humans, so it’s horrid. Anyway, that’s the society you have and the story starts in high school where this young vampire girl joins a new school where she is determined not to be outed as a vampire. On the very first day she is noticed by the most popular boy in school. They end up forming a band together – and it starts as a cutesy, romantic high school drama type situation – but he has a prejudice against vampires, so there relationship is basically that – her knowing that the moment he realizes that she’s a vampire – he won’t love her – that’s how it is going – it’s not amazing – but the acting is good and I like how the rules of the society have been set up, so I’ll finish this and report back.
Anisa: Sounds good. Okay, what’s next? That’s it for dramas. I have been binge watching One Night and Two Days – even though I claim that I have no time. I have this thing where when I’m really sick or really stressed out, even watching dramas stresses me out because I feel like I can’t give my full attention and enjoy it, and on the other hand the plot of the drama is too much to handle, so I just watch variety shows. So I’ve been catching up on Season 3 – I stopped watching after Kim Joo-hyuk passed away, because they had this really heart-wrenching in memoriam episode to him and like I cried my eyes out and was like, I need a break. But I went back to it and I’ve been watching all episodes since then, it’s like really good – in my opinion it’s the superior season of One Night in Two Days, fight me. It’s the best cast, and they replaced Kim Joo-hyuk – they added Yoon Shi-yoon but they call him Yoon Dong-gu – they were like Yoon Shi-yoon is too cool – but he’s like the member that is not funny – he looks really fit, he looks like he’d be the fittest of all of them, but every time he plays a game he always messes up – he’s terrible, it’s like this running joke, but he’s really…it’s a nice dynamic. I wanted to talk about two – each trip is usually divided up into two or two and a half episodes.
They did a trip last year in June to Panmunjom – I think in June 1N2D got permission to film their episode there – and I think it had been opened – it was the first time that a TV show had filmed there, and they also opened it to the Korean public; there were certain areas where they were never able to go to before which they are now able to go and see, so that was really something else. There is this one house that is like a UN neutral zone – I think you’ve probably seen it in dramas, where officials from both countries go in, and it like sits on the border and you can also cross the border as long as you are inside that house. So they let them go in there, the soldiers let them go in there but they said they are not allowed to communicate with the North Korean soldiers – so like don’t talk to them, don’t look at them – so they actually came and they were looking through the window at the cast and the cast was like oh my God they’re here – they’re looking at us – and we can’t even smile at them? And they were like no, you can take pictures but you can’t – so this is – I think everyone was feeling very strange about it and really sad – it was very emotional and very powerful – just for them to go to that border and see this artificial line that has been set up that has such real consequences for people. They can’t even talk to each other anymore – and it really struck me a lot because it reminds me of the Partition [of India] in many ways and I think that is not a unique thought, because when I was reading the comments there were a lot of people who were like yeah, I’m from India/Pakistan and this really reminds me of my country…that was pretty powerful.
Saya: Do you know what episode number that is?
Anisa: I don’t remember the episode number but Panmunjom is actually in the title – if you go to KBS World they have a playlist of every single episode – full length episodes of season 3, in order. This one is from June 2018 – they are all up with English subtitles. And another thing that I just thought was really fun is that a few episodes after that they had a global viewers special, so they had all these viewers from all over the world who could just apply to be on the show and they got like 2000 applications and I think like each member got 3 people who picked them and they brought them to Korea and they got to meet the person that they liked on the show and they just kind of played games and most of them had learned Korean – there was a girl from Nepal who had never left her country, she had never seen the ocean, and it was really cute.
Saya: Did you apply?
Anisa: No, I didn’t see – no. The applications started in Spring and they didn’t show it until summer and I’m just watching the shows now, but it was such a weird – because we always talk about how Korea is like its own little ecosystem and we watch the entertainment but we can’t ever interact with it, and they don’t care if we’re watching it and they’re very focused on – the domestic audience is the main audience. I think that’s shifting a little bit and it was really interesting to see how they’re very conscious of their global audience, they care. So that was interesting.
Paroma: That’s true – in recent years I’ve seen allusions to the global audience in dramas and that only happens when they are like hey – something is really starting to become important. Otherwise you won’t see something included in dramas if it is like a fringe idea.
Anisa: Yeah, exactly. So it’s becoming more of a thing. And it’s really interesting how they directly, through YouTube, they directly communicated with their audience. I also love that the PD is like the 7th member and he is such a big part of the story – he’s so funny – I love it. And I have this one last thing, I watched a movie with my mom and sister yesterday in the theater – and it’s American movie but I feel like it is very on brand for us – it’s called Isn’t it Romantic? It’s basically a parody of romantic comedies – so like Rebel Wilson stars as this regular woman who looks like a real person and she just – there is this one sequence where she’s ragging on romantic comedies to her friend who like loves them, for three hours.
Paroma: Yeah – she’s listing out all the tropes, right?
Anisa: Yeah – the way that the apartment is amazing even though she has a really low paying job and she lives in New York, everything is beautiful, and she has this perfect man who just shows up – all the tropes – and I was like, we literally talk to each other for 3 hours about these tropes. This is our podcast. It wasn’t like an ingenious movie, but it was really funny and there were a lot of meta jokes for people who like rom-coms – the cast was really charming – Rebel Wilson is amazing, she is so, so good – it was just really fun and funny and it had a heartwarming message at the end that was more touching than I was expecting and it had a bit of a twist, so yeah. Basically, she hits her head and she wakes up inside a romantic comedy. And she’s like Oh my God – this is hell and I have to escape! and she has to figure out how to escape. It’s great.
Paroma: Yeah, the way to escape is to fall in love with the handsome lead.
Anisa: Well, that’s what you’ll have to watch to find out.
Paroma: Okay, so here is the thing – I have watched most of it, it is just the final run that I haven’t watched – I watched it yesterday, which it’s in my country already because obviously we are not going to get this in the theaters, and when I watched the trailer for this one I knew that I had to watch it as soon as I saw it on Netflix – here is the thing – have you guys watched I’m So Pretty? I think it had Amy Schumer in it. I’m sorry it’s called I Feel Pretty. The concept is somewhat similar, in that she has really low self esteem, and she wears dowdy clothes, and then she hits her head and she wakes up believing that she’s gorgeous and that changes her character in not a very pleasant way actually – part of it is that she is so confident that she just plows ahead and people are so wowed about her confidence that they just treat her differently. And then later on she realizes that she was not so different, she was the same and that she achieved so much, all of that stuff is fine but there were also several problematic things about how the character was portrayed – in that as soon as she thought she was gorgeous she started treating her friends like shit –
Anisa: The nice thing about this one is that she remains extremely likable throughout the whole thing and she points out some great stuff about rom-coms that was very refreshing, like how everybody’s white in them and things like that which I was like yes – thank you. Hi, Priyanka Chopra, thank you for being the second lead – stuff like that.
Paroma: Is she the second lead though? I have only watched a couple of episodes but so far she has had like one scene in it and I wasn’t sure why she was in the trailer
Anisa: She has more screen time in the second half and her character is hilarious, honestly.
Paroma: Yeah – okay I’m going to finish watching it tonight probably. After I watch Romance is a Bonus Book.
Anisa: I feel like this is a very on-brand recommendation for our listeners, which is why I am telling you all to watch it because I feel like you will enjoy it.
Paroma: I like that we have had two movies from Hollywood with over weight and normal looking female leads in romantic comedies – both are romantic comedies – so…
Anisa: I’m sorry – Rebel Wilson is too beautiful to be normal.
Paroma: I’m sorry – which Hollywood heroine is not gorgeous? But still, where have you ever had a plus-sized heroine leading a romantic comedy like this?
Anisa: It’s really nice. Even in the beginning, when she’s still in the real world, the people in her life treat her with respect.
Paroma: She just doesn’t see it.
Anisa: I mean there are always jerks – but the people who are close to her and love her, they appreciate her for what she is already.
Saya: While we are talking about random non-Korean things that we are watching, can I quickly say what I’ve been watching? I’ve been deep in Twelve Monkeys which is like a time travel thriller thing – which I can’t – I have this journey – from Signal I watched Steins Gate, there was a sequel that just came out which is called Steins Gate Zero which came out just last summer and I watched that and I wasn’t that into the first one but the first one really sets up the second one, and it was very wrenching and painful and oh my God, so then I’m deep in the Reddit threads as well, and people recommended as a really good sci-fi with strong time travel rules and just an amazing world, people were recommending Twelve Monkeys – I was like okay – I just finished Season 2 and I’m constantly getting my mind blown and my heart ripped out, and it’s very K-drama – it’s like it’s got this – a set story that it is out to tell, there is a mystery, and Paroma I think this is very much your show – you need to watch this, and also because I just came off Timeless which I loved, but it got canceled, and this one gets its full story – there are thirteen episodes for a season so that’s like an average long K-drama. It’s good.
Paroma: Ok, you guys have been watching all of this stuff and I have also been watching a non-K-drama – actually rewatching this Pakistani drama called Zindagi Gulzar Hai – I watched it before and I loved it –
Saya: I watched it – I didn’t finish it – I meant to – I always meant to. You also talked about Angan at that time and I was watching that episode online on Youtube and I was like so want to know what is going on in this because I knew if I understood enough…
Paroma: Do you guys remember how we spoke about that whole Jane Austen feeling that a lot of people in Pakistan have – their current culture where there is so much tradition, but also there is this value placed on being married above everything else – the whole season that happens – Like London’s marriage mart situation that happens, so this has some Jane Austen-ish elements in that it focuses primarily on the girl’s family and her financial situation and she comes from this middle class family where her mother has had to support her two daughters and her three daughters have different characters and they are all very hard working girls, but it’s the eldest daughter who carries the story forward. It is her going to college meeting this boy who is a spoiled rich guy – he’s good at studies but he’s also really self-important, he thinks that his way of seeing the world is the only way of seeing the world and they clash and they hate each other, and years later they meet again and by this time the boy has grown and he likes her –
Saya: There’s a time skip?
Paroma: There’s not a time skip – you actually see the periods following each other – you see the boy’s change of character – change of heart, and at one point he starts idealizing her in that even though he started hating her, her characteristics stuck out to him and then later on he decides, if I have to marry I am happy to marry her, so he starts wooing her, but she can’t get over her prejudice when it comes to him and part of it is the class difference, in that she cannot believe that someone of his class, of his mentality, can ever understand her struggles – what she and her family went through, or give her family the respect that they deserve – that he and his family will always look down at them and it’s a really complex and lovely story.
Anisa: My whole family has watched this and they have been telling me to watch it for like two or three years.
Saya: I thought you’d both watched it and I was like – I’m very ready for this.
Paroma: If you have to start with a Pakistani drama, I would highly recommend watching this one, but it is also – being Indian and – my family is Hindu – I might be agnostic but – it doesn’t pull me out of the community that I’m in, or that the area that I live in where we have a personal – you have Muslims living in the same area, but it’s not steeped in Islamic culture if that makes sense. You see – the reason I love this drama so much is that you have some stereotypes in your own head – when you think about South Asian, Muslim women, when you talk about this drama where it is about her gaining her own independence through education, getting a good job, and thereby making her family more independent – a lot of it is about how she fears being humiliated by others – that she has faced a lot of humiliation because of her socioeconomic position – so above all is her pride – to have a drama center so much on a woman’s pride, you can’t have stereotypes in that kind of plot. So it was just wonderful – this was my first introduction into Pakistani dramas and it was so great – to have this in my head first, because there are other dramas where you have other stereotypes. This one set the foundation. This was a really good drama to start off on.
Anisa: That’s really nice, P.
Paroma: Okay, move on. We can’t move on, we are ending it here.
Anisa: That was really well said, I liked that.
Saya: I want to go and watch it right now.
Anisa: My heart felt warm.
2 thoughts on “Podcast 34. TLY – Romance is a bonus book | Touch Your Heart | The Last Empress (Final Thoughts)”
Hey Guys, that was really a Great Podcast. I had so much fun because I felt the same. Especially the problem with the hair in Touch your heart. Really bad… 🤗
Aww Carli, thanks for letting us know you liked it! (Also, yay! Finally someone who agrees with me about Lee Dong-wook’s hair!)
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