Drama Reactions & Reviews
A Year in Compliment Sandwiches [Year In Review, Part 3]
by | December 16, 2013 | 196 Comments

It’s been an interesting year for the world of dramas, hasn’t it? Usually any given year will at least give us that one epic drama we can all rally around like a big ol’ communal campfire, allowing us to share s’mores of our feels filled with chocolate (abs) and, okay, maybe this analogy is getting away from me.

The point is, we’d ideally have that one actor/character/romance we could maybe almost all agree upon—and if we didn’t, at least we had the opportunity to begrudgingly accept the majority who did while snubbing our noses ironically. It’s not that 2013 was a more divisive year in general, it’s just that we were all spread further across an ever-growing map.

So if this year didn’t give us that one drama whose blanketing warmth we could all snuggle under in the spirit of community, then it gave us more than enough bad ones to use as kindling for our own campfire. Whatever brings us closer together, right?

But don’t worry, the compliment sandwiches are on me. Like my mom never said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, sandwich it between two compliments and say it anyway.”

SONG OF THE DAY

Heartless City OST – Bohemian – “Wound” [ Download ]

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TOP 5 DRAMAS IN ORDER OF AWESOMENESS

 

End of the World

There are certain shows I can watch and appreciate while recognizing that sometimes I’m just not the intended audience that specific production is appealing to. What was so striking about End of the World then, just on the basis of premise alone, was that I was exactly the audience for this kind of show. It could not have appealed to me more if it tried.

End of the World was one of two dramas this year about an apocalyptic pandemic (the concept wouldn’t become the bandwagon time travel was, that’s for sure) and the scientists poised on the front line of an invisible and deadly war as humanity’s last hope for survival. Chilling, isn’t it? What higher stakes can there be when it comes to facing our own collective mortality?

Though normally relegated to villain roles, Yoon Je-moon has shown his strength as an actor time and time again, and received his just reward this time in the form of a leading role. (Finally!) As Kang Joo-hun—the Sherlock Holmes of the CDC’s epidemiological investigative team—Yoon’s compelling portrayal of a man locked in a struggle greater than himself, greater than everyone, was hands-down the performance of the year. No character felt more vulnerable, more capable, more fallible, and more human than Kang Joo-hun. In a year populated with plot devices parading around in the skin of human beings, that’s saying a lot.

What made the virus in this drama so frighteningly memorable was how it became a character of its own as it killed, morphed, and developed a truly unsettling survival instinct. The idea of infected people attacking those who are uninfected isn’t new to anyone who enjoys a good zombie apocalypse or two, so imagine instead that the infected don’t morph into ghouls—they still look just like us, only their sense of morality has begins to degenerate. They don’t know any better because their minds have become capable of a twisted kind of internal logic, one which can compel a man to help a fellow patient hang herself with all the emotional attachment he would use to help her change a lightbulb.

It was the coldness of those infected, the pure apathy, the total lack of understanding that what they were doing was so abhorrent and wrong that was at once completely fascinating and eerily disturbing to watch. It’s the kind of show that digs deep into our human nature and festers there—in short, a masterpiece.

And while it’s true that low interest cost End of the World an eight episode cut, I would challenge any wary viewer to watch the series in its entirety and definitively point out where a dip in quality or storytelling integrity occurred. I couldn’t, and for that reason and many more my hat goes off to the cast and crew behind my favorite show of 2013.

Compliment Sandwich: I loved you. You frightened me. I loved you more because you frightened me.

 

Heartless City

I honestly had almost a non-reaction to the first episode of Heartless City. I went into it completely blind, having read little news about it and having even lesser faith that any show with Nam Gyuri as its central heroine would win me over. I remember thinking that the first episode was nicely filmed with a dark, atmospheric vibe reminiscent of old school noir crime thrillers. I was ready to write it off as Cool, But Not My Thing… until I watched the second episode. And the third. And maybe didn’t sleep for a while after that (I came into the show late).

In short, Heartless City was the crack drama of the year for yours truly. I loved it. I loved the romance between lord of the underworld Jung Kyung-ho and good-girl-turned-undercover-prostitute Nam Gyuri. I loved that this drama treated sex like it exists instead of perpetuating the myth that all children are conceived through a firm handshake. I loved the endearing bromance between a drug courier and his underling (played by relative newbie Yoon Hyun-min in what could only be called a breakout role), and how their bond of brotherhood lasted through multiple close shaves (not to mention villains draping their necks with necklaces of cocaine—because yes, that happens).

It’s probably because the drama aired on cable network jTBC that it was allowed to deal with more mature subject matter we’re not used to seeing on the big broadcast networks, like the underground drug trade and organized crime. There is still a limit though, in that you can’t escape the censors when it comes to knives (an unavoidable annoyance when nearly every episode features a knife fight), and, weirdly enough, also tattoos. Though I still don’t understand the concept behind blurring just the knives when the violence, blood, and body counts resulting from the [censored] could still be shown in full detail, I guess it comes down to whatever helps nervous parents sleep at night.

The plot maintained its penchant for twists and turns to an almost detrimental degree, since by the end of the show nearly every character had undergone some dramatic identity reveal or fifty. Some cases were more like, “He’s a villain!” “Wait, he’s really an undercover cop!” “No! He’s really an undercover cop gone bad!” “Just kidding! He’s really an undercover cop gone bad who was really good this whole time!” It was literally the world of cops and robbers as seen through an Instagram filter, just sprinkled with a bit more shadows and maybe a smidgen of the blood of the vanquished.

Which all goes to say that Heartless City was a rollicking good time worthy of the emotional hangover it left behind. Perfectly imperfect, [censored] and all.

Compliment Sandwich: I ♥ you. You broke my ♥. Even so, I still ♥ you.

 

Empire of Gold

We’re no strangers to seeing chaebols in our dramas, but a drama completely about chaebols is usually harder (read: almost impossible) to find. Likely because you’d need very strong, intelligent writing and an equally capable cast to keep things interesting, something which corporate thriller Empire of Gold had in spades.

It was the thinking man’s drama, unflinching in its portrayal of the depravity and hedonism of those who prostrate themselves at the altar of human greed. Though it used a wide array of fully-realized characters to give a rich and nuanced account of a chaebol family struggling through the various economic crises of the 1990s, the main focus was on Go Soo and his portrayal of Jang Tae-joo—a man born into poverty who possesses the ruthlessness and cunning needed to overtake an empire.

In order to achieve his dreams, Tae-joo enters into a platonic marriage with the company’s heiress Lee Yo-won (in a decent but slightly milquetoast performance), while the woman he truly loves serves prison time for a crime he committed. I watched, riveted, as Tae-joo went head-to-head with his own wife and perennial nemesis Sohn Hyun-joo in a never-ending battle of wits, where each victory was hard-won but never, ever the last.

What gave Tae-joo’s conflict that added layer of complexity was the fact that he was challenging the status quo with his very existence, and he knew it just as much as everyone else did. There’s a moment where he asks his entitled wife just what exactly makes her more worthy of her father’s throne than he when all she had to do was walk from her living room to get there. If he came all the way from the slums to stand at the same threshold as her, what is it that really makes one human worth more than another? Is it birthright, effort, willpower, or something even more intangible?

If Empire of Gold accomplished nothing else, it at least gave us questions to which there are no easy answers, and had something to say about the injustice of the class divide while proving to be one of the most compelling and unyielding character dramas of the year.

Compliment Sandwich: You put the business back in business time. As long as we’re being honest though, the ending could’ve used a little extra polishing. Still, Tae-joo-yaaaaaa!

 

Cruel Palace: War of the Flowers

Cruel Palace was a marvel of a sageuk which aired on jTBC earlier this year, helmed by the writer and at least one of the directors responsible for last year’s popular cable hit Queen Insoo. Though its span was epic in covering the life and times of King Injo and his family after his infamous submission to the Qing Dynasty after the second Manchu invasion of 1636, what propelled the story from week to week was its focus on character as the driving force.

Aside from Queen Insoo, writer Jung Ha-yeon is also responsible for the 2010 makjangapalooza Flames of Ambition, which I bring up here only to point out how unique his three most recent works have been in their focus on ambitious and inherently unlikable lead women. It speaks to a certain talent in order to make Kim Hyun-joo’s portrayal of Yam-jeon—one of Injo’s concubines and a formidable political foe—as a not necessarily sympathetic or even an easily understood character, but a believable one nonetheless.

I could appreciate the novelty of having such a ruthless character at the center of a tumultuous reign, and the show made a very compelling case as to the type of person one had to be to survive life in the palace: insane. The tragedy inherent in Crown Prince Sohyeon’s story is precisely that he couldn’t be like his father, his brother, or even his fearless wife (portrayed captivatingly by Song Sun-mi), and was damned for it simply because people like Yam-jeon existed. When you’re the kind of person who’d rather use words and rationale against a woman who would kill her own child if it meant power (and do it again)… well, no wonder everyone in this drama was at her mercy, or lack of it.

Compliment Sandwich: You were awesome. But maybe, just maybe, if you’re going to bring a character back from the dead (twice!) you might let him show up more than once every twenty episodes. I’m sorry I said anything, please don’t let Yam-jeon kill me in my sleep.

 

Queen’s Classroom

Queen’s Classroom was an incredibly moving and intimate little drama with the cutest cast of characters in, I don’t know, the history of television. I might be more willing to accept that as an overstatement once this drama fades from my immediate memory, since recalling it just for the purposes of this review brings back all the warm fuzzies and salty tears I shed during its short-yet-sweet run.

Starring Go Hyun-jung as a teacher all her sixth grade students refer to none-too-kindly as “The Witch,” Queen’s Classroom proved unique in its focus on a group of kids who struggle with life, learning, and the rigors of an educational system which all but requires that parents start grooming their children for college at birth. One would think the last thing they’d need is a remorseless teacher who employs emotional manipulation, blackmail, and other seemingly cruel methods to force her students to face reality, but the beauty of this show is watching these unlikely personalities grow and change, and always for the better.

This was nothing if not a character-centric drama which relied on smaller character beats working together to create a relatable whole rather than any big, overarching plot. It’s what made Queen’s Classroom feel extra cozy in its slice-of-life setup, and why I’d like to think we could find the lessons the children learned so universal. So much of what they experienced were things we’ve all had to face at one point or another, and even more still that we have yet to face. The world’s a scary place.

So while I’m not sure I would have ever wanted Teacher Ma looking a miniature me straight in the windows of my soul, I really enjoyed seeing her employ her x-ray vision on a tiny cast that I’m still loathe to say goodbye to. But if kids like these are dramaland’s future, then I think we’re in pretty good hands.

Compliment Sandwich: Bravo to a wonderful cast, even to the rare white elk that was Ricky Kim. I was sniffling like a baby for weeks because of you! You can keep my tears, though—you were worth it.

 

THE REST, IN PUNY CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

 

Hundred Year Inheritance

Hundred Year Inheritance OST – Jo Hyun-ah – “Living Is Not Living” [ Download ]

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Hundred Year Inheritance was the worst best makjang of the year, eliciting feelings of rage delight within its surprisingly large viewer base, the growth of which seemed directly proportional to the amount of certifiable characters on screen at any given time. We, the thinking public, continue to propagate the system of the weekend makjang, whereby craziness and nonsensicality are rewarded with our undivided attention—the conceit being, of course, that we are entertained.

I’ll give credit where credit is due in that the drama began in medias res, with the helplessly oblivious heroine Eugene getting a rude wake-up call from her hateful mother-in-law who heaps torture and pain on her son’s wife as though it’s her god-given duty. But even that would be too much reasoning for her existence, so we had to take it on faith that all chaebol mothers-in-law are evil, despicable human beings without a shred of conscience. In that sense, Hundred Year Inheritance only reinforced all the life lessons weekend makjangs have taught us, such as: people are awful, second lead females are either homicidal or suicidal, the rule of law doesn’t apply to the uber-rich, cars are higher on the food chain because they kill so many of us, and the amount of babies bought or stolen in any given drama constitutes a human trafficking crisis.

It’s only after being thrown into a mental hospital by said mother-in-law and surviving three years of marriage to a man with all the mental faculties of an 8-year-old bubble boy that our heroine starts her new life as a divorcée, and the crack factor comes in the form of her romance with Lee Jung-jin, the dogged, handsome, and (mostly) sane chaebol in love with her. But of course there’s only one way to sustain a romance for such a long period of time, and that’s to show as little of it as possible in order to keep the audience wanting more. I hate how that tactic inevitably works on suckers like me (and 30% of Korea).

So, how do you then fill fifty episodes where your leads must stay apart in order to keep viewers hooked despite the certainty that there will be no happiness until the very end? Don’t ever look to this drama for the answer to that question, because even for the low bar set by the weekend genre, the writing was the wooorst. I’m almost sure that the writer must’ve thought that (1) typing with her toes was fun, and (2) that as long as a blood relation existed between different story threads, that was enough to make them relevant. Not so.

In the end, Hundred Year Inheritance was hugely mis-marketed as a “warm family drama” dealing with love and food in a noodle house owned by the heroine’s family for generations (hence the title), when all of that business felt more like an afterthought—especially when the heroine played almost no part in it. But when you’ve got a choice between squabbling family members and Lee Jung-jin, who can blame a girl for forsaking noodles?

Compliment Sandwich: Your lead couple was aces. Everything and everyone else was insane. Thanks for making Lee Jung-jin sacrifice his artistic integrity for our enjoyment.

 

Flower Boy Next Door

I still can’t get over how much it felt like the writer behind Flower Boy Next Door just threw a dart at an atlas to decide where to have her hero originate from in order to shake things up. That’s the only explanation I can give for a hero named Enrique (which is a totally respectable name, don’t get me wrong) who hails from the gaming wonderland of faraway Spain—and who is, of course, a genius game designer with celebrity status and sasaeng fans. ‘Cause why not?

There were some interesting character ideas that seemed to get lost somewhere along the way, with a hermit for a heroine, an awkward(-ly hot) webtoon artist for her neighbor, and a mostly cute cast of side characters which helped to buoy the drama’s fun side against its not-so-fun emo side—the one filled with inner monologues and classically bitchy second lead females stirring the pot for no other reason than that they can.

If Flower Boy Next Door had stayed true to form and trusted itself to use its characters to propel the story rather than throwing in external conflicts which were beyond everyone’s realm of control, then I think it would’ve left me with fonder memories. But a contemplative first half does not a believable second half make, especially when you tend to negate everything that made the premise special for the same ol’ stuff we can catch on any other channel.

Compliment Sandwich: I can’t fault you too much, because there was Kim Ji-hoon, and I’m easy like that. Even though he wasn’t a real person—but c’mon, it’s not like anyone else was either. I mean… wow, the realism!

 

That Winter, The Wind Blows

By all accounts this should have been the melodrama of the year. It had everything going for it—an all-star cast, the all-star team behind the amazing Padam Padam, and a story that wrote itself (seeing as it was an adaptation of Japanese drama I Don’t Need Love, Summer). If I had to name just one thing that cost this drama a chance at greatness, I wouldn’t be able to. It was a little bit of everything and nothing, though there were some moments of dialogue which were profound and reminiscent of the Noh Hee-kyung of yore. If only there had been more.

I can see why PD Kim Kyu-tae won for best directing at the 49th Baeksang Arts Awards, and were this last year I’d proudly stand behind him and say he deserved it. But if you’ve seen a few of his dramas in order, like A Love to Kill, Padam Padam, and finally That Winter, it’s hard not to notice how his cinematography has evolved (or devolved) from using creative shots that still expressed an idea to framing the action so tight on an actor’s face that they’d bump the lens if they so much as nodded. His tendency toward close-ups was evident in his previous works but was still used sparingly enough so as to have an actual effect on the viewer—after all, the close-up is a powerful way to convey the characters’ emotions to we, the people. Key word: sparingly.

If I had to invent a reason as to why we were familiar enough with each actor’s airbrushed pores to name them, it’d be this: PD Kim saw Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables a few months before his project began, thought to himself that a movie shot in handheld, shaky close-ups would only be better if it was sixteen hours long, and set out to make that show regardless of whether the style worked for the story or not. In no way does that mean that the shots weren’t beautiful, since each actor was blessed with pretty lighting and a surreal, dreamy color palette. It’s just that, surprisingly, too much of a good thing can be bad. Who knew?

The story revolving around a conman who gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pose as a blind heiress’ brother was admittedly thin beer, carried mostly by a few compelling performances. Jo In-sung was commanding and, yes, somehow even sympathetic as a gambler so afraid of dying that he’d risk everything, even what little integrity he had left, for the money needed to live.

If there was only one aspect of this show executed to near perfection, it was how Soo’s better nature kept compelling him to do what little good he could to help his faux-sister, even though none of his small acts could possibly make up for the grand lie he was perpetuating. The first half of the drama actually managed to show how Song Hye-gyo’s character benefited from Soo’s presence and protection, especially from the caretakers who would take advantage of her, which went a long way toward making their characters somewhat relatable.

And that’s all aside from the fauxcest, which I recognize is a pretty massive aside. I just don’t have anything to add to the conversation of fauxcest in dramas. It’s weird. The end.

Compliment Sandwich: You were a very pretty drama. When I say “pretty,” I mean “shamelessly pre-packaged commercialist malarkey.” But hey, without pre-packaged stuff we wouldn’t have Twinkies, so, that’s something.

 

Nine: Nine Time Travels

I remember initially passing off the redundantly titled Nine: Nine Time Travels, if only because time travel was sooo last year—and also because time travel was so last year, in that you couldn’t shake a stick without hitting someone from the future in 2012. Hadn’t that bandwagon moved on already? Did the team behind last year’s cable hit Queen In-hyun’s Man actually have another time travel story to tell, or were they just going for a repeat of their previous success?

To its credit, Nine was very much its own show, with its own unique take on the idea of time travel. For once, Fate (or a Time Conductor, whatever) wasn’t the main player wielding the ultimate power of decision over the puny mortals at its whim. Instead, the mechanics were fairly simple—the hero has nine incense sticks, each with the power (when burning) to transport him twenty years in the past for as long as they remain lit. The past runs on a parallel timeframe to the present, which allows the wielder to coordinate his travels to an almost mathematical precision, but when they’re gone they’re gone. Sort of, anyway. It gets complicated.

Lee Jin-wook was a winner as the steadfast hero who finds himself dealing with powers beyond his control, and while he didn’t completely replace last year’s Kim Boong-do, it’s always refreshing to have a nice, normal, evolved everyman you can really get behind and root for. In fact, I think he might’ve gone the whole show without grabbing even one wrist.

And though the editing could get a little frenetic at times—especially when it came to 38928 different angles of the same phone call—what I really appreciated about Nine was how seamlessly the past and present were integrated together, making what could’ve been a completely chaotic mishmash of time periods come across much more seamlessly than I would’ve expected.

Nine wasn’t the kind of drama that got me in the gut, even if I could appreciate all the little things that helped make it a truly worthy addition to the time travel genre, or even just to dramas in general. Too many shows this year took the same conflict and merely escalated it (if we were even that lucky), while shows like Nine stood a head and shoulders above the pack for having constantly changing conflict—which, even when things got convoluted, is still preferable to watching the same thing happen in slightly different ways for twenty hours straight.

Compliment Sandwich: Way to keep things sensical by giving the hero a solid friend as a sounding board. For such a smart show, why’d you have such a dumb villain? Lee Jin-wook’s twitchy ears were an adorable sidekick.

 

Shark

Shark OST – BoA – “Between Heaven and Hell” [ Download ]

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Shark was yet another drama made by a team who (with their powers combined!) have collaborated on some great projects in the past—most notably revenge melodramas Resurrection and Mawang/The Devil. This was to be their much-anticipated comeback, and we had no reason to expect anything less than a super-intense vengeance quest interwoven with smart character conflicts that would test the very fabric of our emotions until we no longer knew which way was up and whi-… okay, so maaaybe I expected a little too much.

To be fair, let’s say you were from the other end of the spectrum and went into this drama expecting nothing—and after twenty hours of your life, that’s exactly what you got. Feel any better? If you do, for shame! We can have joyful schoolyard-bully feelings of victory when a show that’s too big for its britches fades into oblivion, but ordeals like Shark deserve at least a little pity. (Not to be confused with a pity party, which pretty much sums up the extent of Kim Nam-gil’s characterization.)

So what went wrong? Again, this is an instance where it’s hard to pin the blame on just one thing. But if I got to pin it on two things, it’d be the character of Yi-soo—all internal angst, no external impetus—and the plodding oh-my-god-what-did-we-ever-do-to-deserve-this nature of the pacing. Yi-soo was an amorphous hero who had the potential to be engaging and gritty if only the production hadn’t been so afraid to let him be anything.

When he starts off the big clue-hunt for his first love/prosecutor/daughter of the man who killed his father, he does so with a murder. As the story wears on, he does nothing else but drop hints here and there for Sohn Ye-jin to find, and spends most of his time thinking Deep Thoughts over a shark pendant—the shark metaphor being this production’s way of testing whether repeating something enough times will make it matter to audiences. It never mattered, okay Shark? It. Never. Mattered.

Now that I think back on it though, maybe Yi-soo wouldn’t have come off as such a drag had the writing not physically isolated him for almost the entire run of the show. If he was having Deep Thoughts, it was because he had literally nothing to do in the in-between periods where he had to wait for the heroine to get a clue. Er, get his clue. I’ll just stop here.

Compliment Sandwich: Kim Nam-gil’s pornstache does become more bearable over time. I was, however, struck with boredom just recalling the events in this show. At least it ended with a bang.

 

Sword and Flower

Why was this the year of polar opposites? It was barely only one year ago that I declared PD Kim Yong-soo (Equator Man, White Christmas) my favorite cinematographer working in the drama industry. So why is said industry trying so hard to beat the little optimism I have left out of me? Y’know what, it’s not even about me—what did anyone do to deserve Sword and Flower?

To break down what didn’t work in Swords Over Flowers would take more space and mental energy than is readily available, so let’s instead focus on the two biggest aggressors: writing and directing. You might know them as two parts of the three needed in the Perfect Drama Trifecta. Sword does not know them at all. If the directing in That Winter was simplistic and focused to a fault, then the directing here commits a more egregious error—that of being too in love with its own aesthetics to tell a story. It’s the myth of Narcissus in drama form, and if you made it to the end you were rewarded by the sight of the drama drowning in its own smug sense of self-importance.

While there were some truly horrifying musical choices in last year’s Equator Man, there is not a candle in the world that can be held to the off-putting score which marred most of Sword’s first half, where the dulcet tones of a death-metal-western-electro-dubstep-drum-circle serenaded us as characters defied gravity for no other reason than that someone must’ve wanted them to. And though I was so ready and willing to support this drama for daring to be different in a sea of sameness, it would’ve needed to succeed even a little at what it was attempting to achieve. You can’t be the “You’ll see! You’ll all see!” show when you can’t even bother to wake Choi Min-soo up before his scenes.

But lest we hang PD Kim out to dry for misguidedly sacrificing his wide array of cinematic talents at the altar of spectacle, it’s worth noting that the writing didn’t help by being almost non-existent and grossly simplistic, with grand ideas that might’ve been fun had they been executed with any level of competence. (Spoiler alert: they weren’t!)

Compliment Sandwich: I was rooting for you, we were all rooting for you! How dare you?! Learn from this!

 

Who Are You

Who Are You didn’t aspire to be the thinking man’s drama, but it was a fluffy and theoretically spooky piece of escapist entertainment which stayed consistent from beginning to end—probably because it aired on cable network TVN, and cable seems to be just a few steps ahead of the live-shoot game. Needless to say I enjoyed it, though I don’t know if that’s saying much since I’d never seen a ghost-seeing-police-procedural-romance before this one.

The premise was intriguing and certainly different in its approach to the generic love triangle by having the heroine’s fiancé die and then reappear to her as a ghost, the tragedy being not only that he’s on a different plane of existence, but that he can’t speak. And that was an honest tragedy if I’ve ever seen one, because if Kim Jae-wook could get so much nuance across with pure silence and the power of expression, think of how amazing it would have been to have him in the whole drama with those sad puppy eyes and WORDS! Words that would come right out of his mouth, maybe even to form SENTENCES! I’m still lamenting what could have been.

While it was certainly ballsy to keep Ghost Kim Jae-wook around without using his full potential, the show gave us a more immediate love story with hotshot hero Taecyeon being demoted to the police’s lost-and-found department, which is subsequently where heroine So Yi-hyun finds a job after her very long hiatus. (Don’t you love drama comas where people wake up like they just took a long nap and not like their muscles have turned to jelly and their bedsores have bedsores?) How she gained her ghost-seeing ability seems to be the common thread in ghost-seeing dramas as of late, in that her bump on the head and coma was the source—though the exact reasoning gets a little murkier later on, much to my chagrin. It can never be overstated how important rules are in a fantasy universe. Never ever.

I did find it a little odd that the show opted for a more serialized approach to its storytelling when it didn’t have a serialized amount of time, like, say, multiple seasons as opposed to sixteen episodes. Most of the episodic content from week to week was spent solving ghost-related cases, which left little bits of room here and there for character development. I didn’t find the gap between the main story and the case-of-the-week format to be all that jarring, mostly because the teamwork between our two underdog cops could be a hoot, with So Yi-hyun (in her first semi-likable role) playing the straight man to all of Taecyeon’s well-meaning blustering. I could watch those two solve cases for multiple seasons, although I’m glad dramaland won’t give me the opportunity to hate myself for thinking that later.

Compliment Sandwich: Congratulations, you won the ghost-seeing drama race and were first to air before Master’s Sun. Shame on you for wasting Kim Jae-wook’s precious talent. Really though, thanks for bringing him back to our attention.

 

Master’s Sun

I think we were all a little relieved when Master’s Sun proved that it was NOT going to be the next Big (phew!), but neither was it a complete return to form for the Hong Sisters. I found it mostly innocuous and enjoyable, with a wonderfully charming performance by the usually stone-faced So Ji-sub, who really did end up stealing the show. And okay, also our hearts—who are we kidding?

The writers are notorious for creating endearing heroes while the heroines and second leads can be a little hit-or-miss (and mostly dependent on the charisma of their actors). Though the idea of tacking on a disability to a hero to make him relatable is old hat at this point, it’s hard to knock something when it works. And while Gong Hyo-jin’s skill as an actress isn’t up for contest, I wasn’t as taken by the role of Taeyang as I’d hoped to be. We can excuse most of her extreme behavior as stemming from her unwanted ghost-seeing ability, but there’s only so many times I can listen to the scriptwriters hanging a lantern on her professing that she’s like-a-Candy-but-not-ha-ha before I start realizing that self-referential meta jokes don’t magically make a Candy into, well, not one.

Seo In-guk made a fine showing but was ultimately stuck with the pining second lead role, and part of my issue with the long march toward the show’s conclusion was that the true climax of the show had already taken place, which I won’t mention here for spoiler purposes. Anything after that came off as the usual well-worn tropes used to keep the lead pairing apart—amnesia, third party interlopers, not-so-binding contracts, overseas travel (otherwise known as forced separation), and time skips.

The show had its own internal logic to explain what was happening and why, so it’s not as though any of the later plot came out of the blue, nor can I fault the show for using well-worn tropes when they exist to be used. It’s just that somewhere along the way I fell out of love. I wish I knew why.

Compliment Sandwich: Sparkling chemistry between the lead couple, and an interesting use of the ghost-seeing premise. A jar of mayonnaise would’ve made for a better villain than the Evil Twin. Points for the Empire of Gold meta joke though.

 

Secret

Secret OST – Navi – “Incurable Disease” [ Download ]

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Secret actually serves as a good example of a drama which did well within the boundaries of its genre as opposed to being hopelessly confined by them. (On the other end of the spectrum, Heirs is the mime stuck in a glass case of emotion.) It was the melodrama of melodramas this year, embodying all the things which make for a traditionally entertaining watch: revenge, forbidden love, unlikely alliances, and the I-swear-I’m-just-going-to-watch-one-more-episode addictive nature of the pacing.

What at first seemed like a garden variety melo about a Candy heroine and a chaebol quickly spiraled into a tale of murder and sacrifice, with Hwang Jung-eum playing a heroine who pulls a gender-reversed Nice Guy and goes to prison for her beloved, enduring the birth and loss of her child all while incarcerated without a shred of outside support. Her fiancé’s crime, the one she unduly paid penance for, was that of killing Ji Sung’s pregnant girlfriend, who (of course) he wasn’t allowed to be with because chaebols are very special snowflakes.

Dramatic, isn’t it? And that’s not even half of it, since the hate the hero(?) harbors for the heroine(?) morphs, astoundingly, into a strange and very disturbing love that the show tried very hard to sell, though I never quite bought it. What’s more important, I suppose, to note about Secret is that it never tried to rationalize its characters in what we’d deem as “normal” terms outside of the world they were living in—everyone was off their rockers in some way or another, which is to say, everyone was freaking crazy. This was not the sort of drama for emotional subtlety or nuance, since it operated on a level of extremes which were impossible to comprehend in sane terms, but which somehow equated to easily digestible and emotionally satisfying entertainment (on a very primitive level, with plenty of qualifiers).

I can say that all now while admitting that I had trouble connecting with most (any) of the characters, whether it was Hwang Jung-eum’s self-sacrificing naivety gone awry or Ji Sung’s worrisome tendencies toward abuse that were really just manifestations of his self-loathing and god complex when it came to protecting the memory of a woman he himself had abandoned. At least everyone got to learn a lesson or two through the course of this drama, but I’m also a firm believer in the idea that sometimes, you just can’t fix crazy.

Compliment Sandwich: I went in expecting nothing, and was pretty surprised with the result. Ji-sung’s character is a really, really bad example to be setting for romantic leads. You’re sooo lucky you had Ji Sung playing that character though.

 

Heirs

Oh, Heirs. One of the principle differences behind my dismissal of the high ratings weekend makjangs rake in and primetime drama ratings is that the makjangs might’ve earned their lot (on some twisted level) by entertaining us in one way or another, like a circus monkey with a music box. My natural inclination is to expect a little more meatiness from primetime dramas, though I suppose if you aim low and still manage to net 25.6%, you must be doing something right.

This is one of those instances where I can say I probably wasn’t the intended audience for this show, though that never stops me from giving a drama the benefit of the doubt—or in this case, twenty. But what struck me most about Heirs from the very beginning was how much it felt like we were just going through the motions of what a high school/makjang/teen romance should be, without any effort being made to give Heirs its own sense of lived-in identity.

While you’d be hard-pressed to find a modern drama that somehow avoids the topic of the class divide, never have I been so unable to comprehend such virulent classicism to the degree it was presented in the preposterous and often joyless world of Heirs. Not only did it feature a class divide so incomprehensibly vast that it made the first world problems of its characters hard to buy, it also had so little to say on the subject it based its entire story on. That is to say, it had nothing to say on the subject.

Most of the parents in this show were absurdly unrealistic (or just plain insane), and while it wouldn’t have been so bad if the wealthy echelon of characters just didn’t give a damn about those people who had the very nerve to be poor, their idea of bloodline purity and human worth was so malicious, so mean-spirited, that it was just really hard to take any of them seriously. Especially when their sole plot purpose was to give the main couple a hard time, which they definitely succeeded at. So much aaangst, so much paaain, so little story.

I wish I could say that Heirs was a fun watch despite all the flaws, or that there was a defensible reason as to why the high school aspect was actually necessary to the plot. If there’s one thing I can be grateful for it’s still Kim Woo-bin, who managed to squeeze a charismatic performance out of a role which, on paper at least, would seem like an early-model blueprint for a future serial killer. Who needs therapy when love cures all though, right?

Compliment Sandwich: Even if you underutilized them, you had a great cast. Maybe in your next drama you can stand apes up next to your leading men so we can go, “Ohhh, so there IS a difference.” No cast member was injured during filming.

 

Basketball

Basketball has been an extremely weird watch for me, in that I’m able to see the parts of it which should, for all intents and purposes, have made for a compelling drama. In this case the sum is not greater than the parts, especially when the parts themselves aren’t even that good—so what we’re left with is a drama where lots of stuff happens, but so little of it resonates without character propulsion.

That lack of character-centric choices is Basketball’s chief failing, something that the final two episodes aren’t likely to change. It’s depressing when you consider the dramatically rich premise of an underdog turning to basketball in the tumultuous period of the Occupation era leading up to Korea’s independence and the basketball team which made it to the quarterfinals in the 1948 Olympics—the last time Korea would compete as a unified nation before the north/south division. It’s just, c’mon, that almost writes itself.

But then, surprise! The production got cut down from its original twenty-four episode count to eighteen, citing that they realized there just wasn’t enough time to tell the full story leading up to the Olympics, so they wouldn’t. What a letdown. In retrospect, I’m not at all sorry about the cut, if only because the drama has been such a chore to sit through. The production got too bogged down in paying homage to the seriousness of its historical setting to remember that there is a story to tell.

This was also yet another example this year of an accomplished director dropping the ball, since PD Kwak Jung-hwan is responsible for two of my favorite dramas—Chuno and Conspiracy in the Court. I doubt I would’ve been quite so disappointed in Basketball had I not seen what this director could do with a green cast and a shoestring budget in the aforementioned Conspiracy in the Court, but since I have seen what he’s capable of, there’s not much of an excuse to be made. Yes, the actors in this drama were exceptionally green (and you’d have to pay me to watch another drama with Lee Elijah in it), but the story wasn’t anything to write home about either. And that’s maybe what sucks the most.

Compliment Sandwich: At least you supplemented your main cast with a strong(er) set of supporting actors. Even though watching you has been one of the greater mistakes of my life. Then again… never mind, I’ve got nuthin’.

 

Mi-rae’s Choice

Mi-rae’s Choice started out as cute, fun, frothy entertainment. The premise was inherently silly with a dash of intrigue, in that the titular heroine is met with her older self who’s traveled back in time just to stop her from marrying hunky anchor Lee Dong-gun with a cryptic warning: “The one you love will die because of him.”

That left plenty of room for wild speculation as the heroine’s future self saw fit to reveal all the future events she’d like, regardless of the impact they’d have on the past—except for the ones that mattered. At a certain point it began to feel like there was no rhyme or reason to what she withheld and what she didn’t, and as is custom for bad examples of time travel, there seemed to be no consequences for her meddling.

Where this drama really started to lose its sense of fun and purpose was when it started bailing on its own rules. Sure, this wasn’t a time travel drama you watched because of its deft handling of the subject matter, especially when the time travel itself was more of a gimmick than anything else. But when they threw their own rulebook out in favor of nonsensicality and opted for repetitive love triangle angst only to then negate the entire premise by the end, well, it’s disappointing. Like going to the salon for a Brazilian blowout and leaving with a poodle perm.

Compliment Sandwich: The dynamics within the broadcasting team were a treat. The dynamics within the love triangle, not so much. That being said, thanks for showing a new and improved Jung Yong-hwa.

 

BECAUSE NO REVIEW SHOULD END ON A POODLE PERM

Let’s face it, I didn’t choose the best of dramas to recap this year. But the love and words of encouragement you all have given me are gifts I’ll always cherish. Trust me when I say I read every comment, and y’all are not only the best community on earth, but also a pretty hilarious bunch. Thanks to you, Dramabeans readers, for making 2013 so special.

And of course, thank you always to the wonderfully supportive javabeans and girlfriday, and to my fellow minion gummimochi for always being there during those late night recap panic moments. May the good times keep coming, for one and for all!

 
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196 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. javabeans

    Compliment sandwiches! OM NOM NOM.

     (101)


    • 1.1 Windsun33

      In keeping with the theme – You were right about everything, except wrong for those reviews that I did not agree with, but I agreed with most.

       (8)


      • 1.1.1 kngdrama

        I assume you are talking about Secret. The party line here buried Secret under “sick and crazy.” I thought the drama was intelligent and emotionally nuanced, showing the believable descent of the villain and ascend of the boy child, plus the Candy’s strength and resolution. That was the show that never missed a beat and did not have any fillers. Captivating, yes, addictive, and thought- provoking.

         (21)


        • 1.1.1.1 Beth

          I really liked Secret too and I completely bought the love line. I would have liked to see it develop just a teeny bit more, but hey, I wasn’t the writer.

          It had a great cast (omg Bae Soo Bin was amazeballs!) and tight writing. I also felt that nothing was really that crazy in terms of melodramas. The only things that bothered me was the continued naivete of Yoo Jung and the absence of the first love interest before she was killed. But that is minor in the course of the entire show.

           (4)


      • 1.1.2 Bidan Ran

        Heartless City: the concept and theme of film noire was interesting but it failed completely in the execution and storyline. I wanted to see a good adult drama, but this one failed as the story meandered so much and went to nowhere. It shows the inexperience of the makers of this drama. I liked and got interested in the first few episodes up until the female officer gets killed and after that everything started to crumble slowly but surely; and the last few episodes were a total wreck!!!
        Love all the male actors and the unni but Nam Gyu Ri was flat, she doesn’t have any spark, she is not appealing at all. Just because it is something new and different, it doesn’t make a good drama.

         (7)


        • 1.1.2.1 amit

          I agree with you on the part that it was a total wreck in last episodes. The characters and story goes haywire.

           (3)


        • 1.1.2.2 Beth

          Despite its failings, I loved Heartless City. It lagged in the middle, but many of the the characters were some of the best I’ve ever seen written in Korean dramas.

          Kim Yu Mi as Lee Jin Sook was absolutely heartrending. And Jung Kyung Ho…I have no words for how talented he is, and he even shined in Smile, You.

          AND you have to admire a drama that managed to snag both Choi Moo Sung and Kim Byung Ok. Those two are heavy hitters.

          My biggest complaint was the lack of compelling female roles. You had two, and one was killed off right away. Han Soo Min was a complete ingenue failure, when she could have been awesome. I mean, she went to jail and
          was supposed to be a prostitute.

          But she didn’t do any prostitut-y stuff and her experience in jail was kind of lame. Her “badass-ness” consisted of running around in ridiculously high heels all the time and getting rescued, so that was also a fail. And casting Nam Gyuri? I was extremely disappointed that they couldn’t find a good solid actress with a not so fake pretty face to put some actual depth and character into the role.

          BUT. Regardless of its failures, Heartless City showed how much better a show can be when it’s written before airing. It wasn’t perfect, no. But I can’t imagine what kind of drama we would have had if it hadn’t been.

           (7)


          • 1.1.2.2.1 Big Bear

            Beth, I congratulate you for the excellent review! Even if I had not agreed with the points raised, your analysis is thorough and concise. But I do agree with your comments completely because you substantiate your points. Good Job.

             (1)


      • 1.1.3 francine

        If you read their first episode review of Secret, you know that they made the mistake of judging the drama too early.

        When the drama turned out to be way better than expected, they refused to admit that they made a premature judgment call. As simple as that.

        What do you expect? An apology? Them taking back what they said?

         (3)


  2. messy

    i was like waiting for the review, then i’ve read your top choices. then i was like Whaaaaaatttt…..

     (8)


    • 2.1 May

      HeadsNo2 seems like a makjang person…

       (4)


      • 2.1.1 rui.is.assez.hot

        Heartless City, End of the World, and Queen’s Classroom are in no way makjang.

         (48)


        • 2.1.1.1 messy

          that’s what i think also… some of her top choices is unbearable.

           (3)


          • 2.1.1.1.1 ilikemangos

            I’m genuinely curious, but which picks did you find unbearable?
            I thought some of those top picks really deserved it, especially because of how underrated they were.

             (39)


          • 2.1.1.1.2 Celery

            Why? Her top choices seemed well justified to me. Therefore, curious to know: what would have been your top choices? (Not defending anyone or anything, just wondering since you called them out for being bad.)

             (20)


          • 2.1.1.1.3 Kiara

            Did you even watch them?

             (22)


          • 2.1.1.1.4 messy

            sorry for being too rude… i mean cruel palace its absolutely a no no for me… but heartless city is good but not great.. we have different choices, i hope that you guys stick to your own choices im just sayin based on my own pov.

             (4)


    • 2.2 Pipit

      Those in her top choices are definitely not my cup of tea with the exception of Heartless City/Cruel City. A fluffy, zippy, happy ever after dramas are what make me happy. But, thanks for reviewing those drama so I know for sure to avoid them ^-^

       (1)


  3. rui.is.assez.hot

    Yes! More Heartess City love!!!

     (44)


    • 3.1 rui.is.assez.hot

      That was a terrible misspelling… I meant Heartless City. Got too excited for a moment.

       (13)


      • 3.1.1 Thandy

        I was so excited that you were as excited about Heartless City as I was that I didn’t notice the misspelling until I read your second comment.

         (19)


      • 3.1.2 Joicy

        Agreed. Finally some one acknowledged that drama. Even though I hope the female cop stayed as the main character through the show, and i did not like Nam guy ri performance, Heartless city is still a good drama. I like Nine, Time travels too, surprised that you have a different opinion about that. I will try goddess of classroom. Thanks for the review.

         (4)


        • 3.1.2.1 Joicy

          And i dont think Nam Gyu Ri was bad with the kiss before bed scene – she has decent chemistry with the male lead, however she needs improvement

           (0)


        • 3.1.2.2 rui.is.assez.hot

          I think a lot of drama reviewers actually praised the show on their websites :D Just didn’t see much here, cause these girls got way too many dramas to write recaps for and no one has infinite time. So thank you HeadsNo2 and Gummimochi!

           (0)


    • 3.2 luvnlife

      Yes – featured OST playing while enjoying this article. Love this song… it really sums up the mood of the show.

      This show is awesome because it takes such a different spin on Kdramas. It knocked the Noir category out of the park. Would love to see more dramas from this writer.

      Great chemistry of the cast. What fan doesn’t like the nice guy playing the baddest of the bad “bad boy.”

      I need to go back and rewatch Parksa’s awesomeness.

       (8)


  4. canxi

    Really love the graphics for the dramas you did like. Pretty! I’ve only watched Heartless City out of all of those but I do want to try Empire of Gold and Queen’s Classroom. I’m gonna be watching 2013 dramas well into 2014 it looks like, lmao.

     (9)


    • 4.1 Windsun33

      I liked Queen’s a lot, but Empire of Gold I never finished.

       (0)


      • 4.1.1 canxi

        Oh really? Empire of Gold does look very serious. I think it’ll be the last thing I get to, lol.

         (0)


  5. spark

    The Queen’s Classroom…. I feel like it will go sadly unappreciated at the end of the year, since it’s from mbc and they are a butt about giving out deserving awards… ㅠ.ㅠ

     (17)


  6. ilikemangos

    We love that you read every comment from us <3 <3 <3
    I'm sad you didn't get to recap shows that you loved most this year, but we always appreciate the humor that you manage to inject in your recaps.

    I thought End of Word was so my bag when I first heard about it. I was looking everywhere for it but couldn't find it. Where did you watch it? When you mentioned sherlock holmes + apocalypse + pandemic.. i thought it was the best combination ever.

    P.S. I was in tears at your tyra comment(compliment sandwich) for Sword and Flower, and in stitches after seeing the photo of a an actual shark. Your main screencap is very creative/pretty and it brings out the artist in you!
    Thanks for your wonderful/thoughtful reviews for shows that fly under the radar. <3 <3 <3

     (13)


    • 6.1 ilikemangos

      Also, i managed to watch 3 out of your 5 top picks (4 after i finish end of world) and i absolutely agree with you. There were those more popular shows that i enjoyed (IHYV,Master’s Sun) but I always had a soft spot for the ones that fly under the rader. The top 5 shows you picked were the best for being either groundbreaking, stirring, or daring. I think the word daring pretty much sums them all up.
      Maybe i should check out Empire Of Gold, since i originally pegged it to be another one of those typical chaebol/revenge dramas. But if i remember correctly.. it’s the same team from 2012′s The chaser, right? As soon as i get over the Lee Yo Won aversion..

       (8)


      • 6.1.1 Bidan Ran

        Empire of Gold is laughable at best!!! It has many many holes in the story. The tools for dealings and exacting revenge and attacks are through corporate schemes and the drama suffers big time in that territory. I know that every drama comes with an acceptable dose of gaps in the story line especially when if it deals with a specific industry, ie, law, medicine, and business. But this one is way over the line. You do not need a business degree to realize this. For example, you get the impression that major corporate change of course is simply executed by the whim of a single person, they do not show at all any of the implications within and without the chaebol. Couple this with poor directing, acting, and editing of scenes, and the end result is a disaster!!!
        I wished for a good adult drama in a corporate setting a la “MIDAS” and “HISTORY OF A SALARY MAN” but was completely disappointed. I know that you can not expect to understand every single detail of the deals, but if the drama is based on business strategies at least it should give a little semblance of truth. If you watch Midas you will know what I mean. And to top it all actor Lee Yo Won has sunk to a new low level of acting, she would have to dig deep into ground on her next project for her to even go further down.

         (0)


        • 6.1.1.1 kngdrama

          Lee Yo Won (for me) was like a dead fish in EOG. Every time she was on screen, it was boring. But the stepmother was really great and I liked the spanky girlfriend.

           (6)


          • 6.1.1.1.1 Kiara

            Go Soo wasn’t any better either although I loved him in Green Rose.

             (0)


        • 6.1.1.2 Anonymous

          Empire of Gold was never about the business dealings, and Lee Yo-won definitely sucked less than Go Soo, who was laughable at best. EoG was all about the the questions of privilege, greed, entitlement, classism, and all of that was handled with grace. Accurate business transactions is totally unnecessary and would probably leave us with no story or something that’s far too complicated as a K-drama.

          Personally, I think the characterizations in EoG were really unique for a drama. “Lead” Jang Tae-joo is smart as a whip, a first class jerk, and an antihero that fell to hubris. Choi Seo-yoon is an intelligent lady with a Ph.D, a backbone, and a love for order and legacy for which she would sacrifice anything, even family. Choi Min-jae is man who worked hard and dirty for his place in the family business because Big baddy Choi Dong-sung didn’t have it in him to share, and got consumed by it.

          –I don’t know what you got out of the story, but the above tells me not one person is just black or white. In fact, I’d say they’re all pretty shady to me. That’s why it was such a fascinating story.

          (And Choi Seo-yoon wins for all around awesome. Everyday. I want to see more no nonsense women like her.)

           (7)


          • 6.1.1.2.1 Bidan Ran

            “questions of privilege, greed, entitlement, classism, and all of that was handled with grace.” Yes we saw privilege, greed and all that jazz but the makers of the drama just screwed up in delivering a credible and interesting story. And how “GRACE” comes into this drama, it is a puzzle to me. Rather, the worst of the human instincts were shown. I agree with you that we should see more of no nonsense women but NOT like Lee Yo Won as an actress. We should see more characters and actors played by Kim Hee Ae in “Midas.” Lee Yo Won was good and decent in Bad Love and Qeen Seon Deok respectively, but she went downhill after that.

             (1)


          • 6.1.1.2.2 kngdrama

            I would separate the novel ideas and intense characters in EOG from the actual execution of the characters. Strong women, especially in business, are sorely missing from Kdramas. It’s just LYW with her one and only expression and shallow, dead eyes did not add to the character but took the fire away.

             (5)


          • 6.1.1.2.3 Anonymous

            @Bidan Ran:
            1.That quotation already has your answer. Grace doesn’t come into this drama as a theme–all I said was that PGS wrote his drama gracefully. I think you read into that way too much.

            2. I beg of thee to separate the actress from the character. The only two actors in the entirety of EOG that spoke to me was Sohn Hyun-joo and Park Geun-hyung. That’s it. Lee Yo-won took stoic a tad too far, and Go Soo seems to lack any understanding of the word “subtle.” In short, the acting sucked. That being said, the written drama is what is most important to me, and Choi Seo-yoon stood out not because she was perfect or powerful, but for her independence, intelligence, AND character flaws. She was a round human being–I could relate to her in ways I have rarely related to female characters in dramas, even if her world was so far from mine. Her thoughts spoke to me.

            Anyway, I find it incredibly sad that she doesn’t get any recognition as a character apart from myself raving about her like a lunatic. In fact, she’s not just ignored, but down played for secondary characters like Yoon Seol-hee, who is flat as cardboard. Why? Because she was Tae-joo’s “obvious” love interest and the more visual “dramatic” character.

            Rant done, I promise.

            @kngdrama:
            I believe that’s what I’m trying to do? I’m not a fan of LYW’s interpretation of the character, believe me. She sucked. It’s just that she sucked less than Go Soo, who was outright horrible. Jang Shin-young would have been on LYW’s level if not for the annoying “Wuri Tae-joo” that comes out of her mouth every five seconds; but that’s obviously a personal grievance.

             (5)


        • 6.1.1.3 August

          Empire of Gold (The Golden Empire) – EOG

          For the first couple of episodes, I questioned whether I wanted to continue watching this drama. However, I am glad that I stuck with this drama from beginning to end.

          As a consequence of the various characters constantly shifting their alliances, EOG was definitely brimming with suspense.

          Whatever your opinion is on the final ending, this show succeeded in the sense that it always felt like a brief business course with a curriculum focusing on the history and growth of one particular conglomerate and its affiliates.

          Over the span of several decades, it provided commentary and insight into the rise and fall of several industries (credit cards, construction, finance, real estate, chemical, auto, retail sales/development, golf courses, shipping, globalism, electronics, infrastructure–roads, bridges, schools, etc.)

           (3)


    • 6.2 Thursdaynexxt

      Re Sword and Flower: me too, LOL! That screencap is just perfect to describe S&F.

      Guess it’s not easy to show “hell in a handbasket”, but “at the end of its rope” is just as close!! :D

       (3)


    • 6.3 azurduyy

      Re: TEOW

      You can download via torrents from the usual suspects, and DarkSmurf has the best subs in existence for this drama. Believe me, they’re great.

      Go, go, go, this drama deserves to be loved!!

       (0)


    • 6.4 queencircles

      Yeah. I loved the Tyra reference. :) Classic.

      Also, great, comprehensive, well thought-out and written reviews. Thanks for your hard work this year! To all the db crew.

       (0)


  7. Jessy

    Thanks to you, too :*

     (0)


  8. Jessy

    Heartless City was the best and believe me it was the first drama for me to watch while airing

     (23)


  9. Ssie

    I will only have to point this out because it bothers me that almost everyone comments on how BAAAD the villain in Nine is portrayed. He may be “dumb”, but I think that was intentional so that the viewers never take him seriously (Which probably backfired, since the viewers DID take him seriously) Boohoo

    The villain here I think is the fact that anyone would want to mess up with Time (with the capital T) It is a struggle between a mere mortal being and some god who oversees the world. And going against Time and the power that be yields consequences that are often detrimental to the hero. I’m sorry to have come across as a little prickly. I just find the whole narration of Nine very effective that I wonder why I’m the only one who thinks of it this way. Anyone?

     (6)


    • 9.1 canxi

      I am watching Nine right now. I’m at ep. 14 and I find the villain more repulsive than anything else. Like the hero he is one of those every man types and he rose to place of power thanks to awful circumstances that he took advantage of. I hate his wide-eyed looks and his smiles and his patronizing way of talking and the turtle coming out of it’s shell reaction movements (and I love turtles!). So, I guess for me it’s not that the villain needed to be smart or anything like that–I think he is just an awful person with an awful personality who had a hand in ruining lives. So he must be destroyed! lol

       (0)


      • 9.1.1 Ssie

        I think he kind of irks a lot of people so your repulsion is totally understandable LOL I may be speaking in the minority here but I didn’t care too much for it. I seriously think he is the comic relief character (aside from the awesome best friend) and I never once thought him of someone to be defeated or won over or something. He didn’t feel threatening even though he should be, because I was more concerned of the hero’s meddling with the past and the repercussions that may come after. I think that ahjussi is the caricature of every drama villains and is the writer’s subtle injection of humor in the show.

        I think I may be speaking in the minority here, though. But it’s nice to discuss how a show could be viewed and attacked by viewers in different ways :D

         (0)


        • 9.1.1.1 canxi

          Yeah, I think the main point of the show is one man’s journey to fix everyone’s lives while unwittingly kind of ruining his own and then having to go back and set things right again realizing he didn’t quite get it right the first time. Also getting his brother to do the right thing. So, therefore the villain becomes less important in the grand scheme of things and more like a road block with his sloppy manipulating.

           (0)


    • 9.2 Windsun33

      I think Nine was one of the top 10, though not top 5 of the year. It was one of the very few to actually treat time travel with any sense at all. I do have to admit that the villain was somewhat less than stellar, but that is my only real complaint about it.

       (8)


  10. 10 May

    Thanks for the Review!! Sadly I couldn’t finish most of these dramas because I just couldn’t connect to them or the plot was just plain stupid (no comment necessary). But after reading this post, I think I’ll give them a second try. Thanks again!!

     (0)


  11. 11 Honeymylovesosweet

    Thanks Heads!

    And now I’m fully convinced. I will start watching Heartless City tonight. :)

     (15)


    • 11.1 M

      Make sure you have a blanket to hide under! ;)

       (1)


  12. 12 Mawiie

    Thanks so much for the review!
    I love the fact that you mostly cover darker or more serious dramas, which are probably less popular than the usual prime time rom-com on the Big 3. It really introduce us to shows that we may have missed (or, let’s face it: suffered through) without your previous insight <3

     (20)


    • 12.1 wonhwa

      I also love your willingness to cover the more unusual, less mainstream dramas, even when they sometimes go awry.

       (12)


      • 12.1.1 Thursdaynexxt

        +1!

        Right through to the [censored] end, no less!! (S&F and WAY in particular!)

         (2)


  13. 13 KDaddict

    Of this lot, I only watched a few:
    End of the World, FBND, That Winter, Nine, Queen’s Classroom, Master’s Sun, Heirs, and 1/3 of Cruel Palace–it got so long. The rest I felt was too makjang for me to approach.

    I salute you for having watched them all at that level of scrutiny for recapping. I don’t think I’ve the stomach for it even if I was given a ton of money to do so.

    It’s been a rather blase year for KDs. I’m watching more K movies to kill the time, and to see some ppl who don’t show up on the small screen anymore, e.g. Lee Min Ki.

    Merry Christmas!

     (1)


  14. 14 paper

    LOL where is that awesome gif from?

    Awesome review :3 I’m going to watch Queen’s Classroom :D Oh and the graphics are pretty :D

     (3)


    • 14.1 HeadsNo2

      I made the gif during a Shark recap. Dong-soo’s butt-dance was just too good not to share.

       (27)


      • 14.1.1 Thandy

        I love that last gif, thanks much for sharing it

         (0)


        • 14.1.1.1 skelly

          I love that gif, too – it brought back all of my second-hand embarrassment for that character!

           (0)


  15. 15 KDaddict

    Oh, and I absolutely adore that very last gif, and your sense of humor. Wonder if that’s from FBND?

     (0)


    • 15.1 Celery

      Shark? I recall reading about this in a review somewhere.

      It can’t be FBND cos of the KBS logo though.

       (2)


  16. 16 crayongirl

    Thanks for focusing more on the cable dramas!! Glad to see they got a bit more love :)

     (11)


    • 16.1 Kiara

      Amen. My favorites were mostly cable dramas.

       (4)


  17. 17 Smile134

    You got me at the pics for Shark the drama, LOL. Anyway, Shark brought me to love Kim Nam-gil’s acting, but the whole drama should be erased off our brain.

     (2)


    • 17.1 Windsun33

      Shark for me was probably the biggest letdown. For the first half or so it was good – righteous revenge and all that. But by the time it ended it was more like the shark had turned into a not so bright Guppy who had gotten lost.

       (2)


      • 17.1.1 ilikemangos

        There was just SO little payoff. Even when the story started to go in circles, it irked me. But then the ending just made me angry with show. You dedicate all those hours only to be disappointed.

         (0)


  18. 18 whimsyful

    Thanks for all your hard work Headsno2! May 2014 bring more awesome dramas for your viewing and recap-ing pleasure (and less sucky ones)!

    Seriously though, so many dramas started off promising this year before taking a nosedive. Shark, That Winter, Basketball, Mirae’s Choice, etc. And don’t get me started on Sword and Flower. PD Kim Yong-soo, what will it take for you to work with a good writer like Park Yeon-seon again?

    If there was one thing that all the above dramas taught me though, is that writing is key. No matter how good the director is or how talented your actors are, if your writer could be replaced by a barrel of drunk monkeys on typewriters, the show’s going to suck.

    The End of the World and Queen’s Classroom both sound amazing though, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about them both. Definitely going to marathon them over the break.

     (11)


    • 18.1 Windsun33

      I think this was the year of dramas that went South, before they even knew they were going South or any other direction, for those that had a direction in the first place.

      But I don’t think that writing alone is key – Secrets was not the best writing in the world, but the actors made it stand out. You need all three for a successful drama but to some extent being really good in one area can offset lack in another. (Unless you are Heirs of course, then you can be totally mediocre and still win the ratings).

       (11)


      • 18.1.1 I ♥ Heirs!

        You spelt awesome wrong.

         (2)


        • 18.1.1.1 queencircles

          LOL.

           (1)


        • 18.1.1.2 koryo

          Still trolling?

           (0)


  19. 19 darcyM

    Thanks for the reviews! I really like your writing style and enjoy your analysis of dramas. Even reading your reviews of dramas I haven’t watched and don’t particularly want to is interesting. You were the first recapper I started to follow, so I think I’ll always view you as my General and comrade in arms in the Trenches of Doom that was watching Sword and Flower. I salute you.

     (8)


    • 19.1 whimsyful

      Hello, comrade from Sword and Flower recaps! *waves*

       (1)


      • 19.1.1 koryo

        Hi there

         (0)


  20. 20 coffeenlucia

    LOL! I love your ending “Because no review should end on a poodle perm” haha

    I agree with Heartless City and Nine, which were both surprisingly good.

    *reads through your reviews* Great, now I feel like I should watch Conspiracy in the Court and Empire of Gold.

    GAH so many dramas to watch

     (7)


  21. 21 mywhiteyasmin

    Heartless Cityyyyyyyy!!!!
    My heart just trembling whenever this drama mentioned. Of course Heartless City was not perfect, but dayum Jung Kyung Ho just grip my heart with his Doctor’s Son portrayal.
    Not to mention how awesome our Cutie Soo and Auntie, i just love those three together kicking everyone ass.

     (20)


  22. 22 mary

    Such pretty pics!

    Thank you for talking about HC. I feel like *everyone* should know about HC!

    Thank you for the laughs.

    Hope you get to recap a better set of dramas next year. A set of dramas you could enjoy AND fangirl about until the last ep. :)

     (3)


    • 22.1 ilikemangos

      Im actually surprised at how many people have been talking about Cruel City lately — it’s like, where were all these people when the drama was airing?! I would have loved to discuss on the OT.. i should have visited the OT more often too, perhaps there would have been more CC viewers?

       (7)


      • 22.1.1 Kiara

        We were watching but no one was recapping it :(.

         (1)


      • 22.1.2 Arhazivory

        We spazzed about it on Twitter like crazy. That was the only forum for me. Man, those days were fun. My heart beat like crazy while watching it. Totally in love.

         (0)


  23. 23 owl

    HeadsNo2 that was a hilarious year end review – pornstache – ha! I love the compliment sandwiches – gotta remember that! Although I would’ve ordered the list differently, I think you had some awesome kdramas to review and love your pov.

     (0)


  24. 24 Celery

    I read about TEOTW when it first came out and it piqued my interest then. But for some reason, I forgot about it… until now – putting it with The Chaser on my short next to watch list of dark k dramas. Thanks for the review/reminder!

    (If not for the predictable twist(s) in HC, I would probably have stayed on till the end of the series. I was seriously hoping it wouldn’t go there but oh wells.)

     (1)


  25. 25 Dongsaeng killer

    This was awesome :)

     (2)


  26. 26 wonhwa

    I thought Queen’s Classroom was a lovely, under-appreciated gem. End of the World kept me watching until the end and was certainly gripping, but I can’t exactly say that I “liked” it. While I got what the writer was trying to say about the latent potential for selfishness and brutality lurking within all of us, twelve hours of “people suck” felt like overkill to me. Also, if you’re trying to rescue your daughter from what you believe will likely be certain death, wouldn’t you use your ubiquitous cell phone to call for help before deciding to brave miles of Seoul traffic? In a cab?

    I may have to give Heartless City another try. I watched the first four episodes and kept running up against the casual physical and sexual brutality towards women and had a hard time getting beyond that. It wasn’t so much the violence itself that bothered me (it is a crime drama after all) as it was the way everyone, cops and criminals alike, seemed to dismiss it completely.

     (6)


    • 26.1 rui.is.assez.hot

      Haha, I think in the later episodes, it’s the women who do the violence and kick butt. Heartless City shows that women aren’t frail and to be messed with. Plus, if you’re in the crime world in real life, no one is going to treat you nice just because you’re a girl.

       (7)


    • 26.2 Windsun33

      I got about as far as you did with Heartless City. I may go back and take another look at it – been so long that I actually forgot now why I quit watching it. It may have been because at times it seemed like it was being brutal more for the shock value than for any good reason.

       (0)


  27. 27 Kiara

    Whoa THANK YOU so much for even mentioning “End of the World” and “Cruel Palace” (still my fav sageuk of the year). I do agree with your order except for Empire of Gold. I thought the writing was good but the two leads didn’t do it for me.

    Thank you Heads. Much <3333333333333333333.

     (5)


  28. 28 ziggystardust

    Heartless City was already on my list, but now The End of The World is on there for sure — I had no idea the pandemic in question was a matter of moral deterioration in the victims. Who thinks of this stuff? *chinhands*

    Also “No cast member was injured during filming.” Snerk.

     (2)


  29. 29 chane

    Yay! More Cruel City love ♥

    2013 has been a meh! year for me, unlike last year when atleast 5 dramas were outstanding and great, this year only 2 dramas made it for me.

    I was waiting for your Sword and Flower review an I agree on everything, such a wasted potential and what a waste of actors.

     (5)


  30. 30 Ivana

    Thanks for your creative and insightful review. I’m actually pretty new to the Kdrama world (started this summer), but I’m already re-watching a lot of dramas, as I couldn’t find ones that are better or equal to the ones I already watched. I guess that’s the problem with starting out with the cream of the crop. Out of your list, I only saw Heartless City, The Winter, and Heirs (only b/c I’m a LMH fan and will go through all that paaaiiin for him). Your reviews were spot on for them, which affirmed my choice to not watch the rest.

    The best drama for me this year is probably Two Weeks, but I’m not surprised that LJK got depressed for playing Jang Tae San, so I probably won’t watch it over anytime soon.

    I also enjoyed I Hear Your Voice, Gu Family Book (minus the ending), and Empress Ki (if I try to ignore the technical inaccuracies). It’s interesting how no one mentions Gu Family Book, and we’re on review #3. I’d admit though that until I went back to watch it a second time, I mostly only remembered the parents’ part. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the ride while it lasted, and didn’t have to click the fast forward button too many times when I watched it again to kill some time.

     (3)


    • 30.1 Iviih

      Hey!!! Nice to meet you, random but I’m also called Ivana..

      I was just happy to see my name here… lololol

       (0)


    • 30.2 Mandy

      Oh… this is the first time I’m hearing about LJK getting depressed in regards to TW. I really didn’t find that show compelling for some reason, even if it did keep me on the edge.

      I love Empress Ki! The thing is, they made it pretty clear early on that that show was never going to go with historical accuracy, so I threw all knowledge out of the window. Its so much more fun to watch a show without knowing the ending anyway. As for GFB, I think the drama aired in the first half of the year so it isn’t mentioned as much. Also, even if it may be popular internationally, its not one people talk about a lot. In Korea though, its the #1 most searched drama of the year and SG and Suzy and #1 and #3 respectively in most searched actors of the year, so GFB is huge there. I loved it, ending and everything included! I’m sure GF’s review will feature it since she recapped the show.

       (0)


  31. 31 PollyRose

    Every time you started a recap of a new show I thought to myself “I so hope this will finally be a great show for her!” Though I ultimately didn’t watch any of the shows you recapped, I did follow what you wrote which was always insightful with what they gave you to work with, as positive as you could spin it while being honest, and more often than not guaranteed to crack me up at some point.

    On a happier recapping note, I have also read your work in relation to dramas that you enjoyed viewing and recapping, just not while they were airing. For example, I was a drama newbie when Queen In-Hyun’s Man was on so it hadn’t hit my limited radar. But man when I caught it your recaps (and Javabeans’) were my steady viewing companions.

    Thanks for sharing about your favs. I keep hearing great things about Heartless City but have been too chicken to go there. I get nervous when things get too real world (I’m such an escapist when it comes to entertainment…) but you might have given me the final push to give it a try. Plus, I really do like Jung Kyung Ho :)

     (5)


    • 31.1 August

      Like Gummimochi said on 12/13/13: “I watched for you: Ajusshi. Gangster Ajusshi. Jung Shi-hyun. Shi-hyun-ah. Shi-hyun Oppa.”

      You have to watch Jung Kyung-Ho as “The Doctor’s Son”(AKA Baksa Adeul/Jung Shi-Hyun) for yourself to see why its such a memorable character/role and so many of us can’t help but be enamored by him.

      Jung Kyung-Ho shines in this stylish noir crime drama projecting a tall, svelte, sexy, and smart brainiac screen presence versus Lee Jae-Yoon as Ji Hyung-Min (basically coming across as all muscles or a version of the Hulk) against the backdrop of the criminal underworld.

       (3)


  32. 32 cynkdf

    HeadsNo2, thanks for your review of Secret. Having read your thoughts about Ep 1 which you recapped, I was curious about what you thought about the drama. Ah sad to say, you didn’t like it.

    Since I love Secret, I just want to thank the voters who have voted for Secret as their favourite melodrama in the DB year-end poll. 13,000 votes cast so far in that category – and Secret is leading at the moment with 37%.

    It was also gratifying to read that most of the viewers of Secret on viki.com love/like the drama. The same goes for the Soompi thread dedicated to Secret.

    So to anyone thinking of giving Secret a try, may I offer a word of advice – the first few episodes set up the storyline, the show just gets better and better.

     (6)


    • 32.1 Celery

      You are the perfect person for my question then, since I am stuck on episode 7. I am finding it really hard to root for JS’ character as opposed to second male lead (not that he is made of great stuff but he is marginally better in comparison), so my question is – does he, I dunno, eventually grow a backbone? I don’t wanna be forced to somewhat root for a main lead just cos the second male lead progressively/dramatically turns into a bad wolf (while he remains the same rich annoying brat that he is).

       (2)


      • 32.1.1 cynkdf

        Hi Celery, I actually grew to like JS’ character, while feeling sad that DH seemed to be growing more and more evil as the series progressed. Please do try to continue to Ep 8, as I think you might grow to like MH after what happens in that episode.

        No matter how black DH was painted, I must confess that I have a very soft spot for him. A case of the BSB fan in me not being able to separate the actor from the character (me bad).

         (1)


        • 32.1.1.1 Celery

          I actually feel pretty neutral/have a little sympathy for all the characters (even the yes/maybe/no/possibly evil stepmom and his overbearing dad.) except JS’. Especially his minions because his character basically treats everyone like shizz and apparently has no respect for anyone else. Which means he has to have believeable character growth for the better for me to root for him.

          DH has been set up from the start to fall victim to his strong sense of duty and ambition so I sort of can buy his growing evilness. JS’ character on the other hand… the thing is I don’t believe he is doing all the shizz he is doing to the female lead out of guilt/because he loved his ex-gf. Like what his dad said, he is just “throwing a giant tantrum because he lost his toy”. Believing that he did love her would at least give me a reason to find him tolerable but I unfortunately don’t. Oh wells.

          As an aside, I do like the actress and her cellblock bitch-turned-ally character. She cracked me up in City Hall (of which I didn’t like) and Accidental Couple.

           (1)


          • 32.1.1.1.1 Celery

            the actress who plays the cell block bitch-turned-ally character*

             (0)


          • 32.1.1.1.2 cynkdf

            Gangster Unni (thanks to falloutjane of Soompi for that – her episode recaps of Secret on Soompi from Ep 7 onwards are simply hilarious) is one of my fave characters in Secret – just love her (and Sandra Hwang).

            I was told that some say that the original synopsis of Secret had DH as the main character, but this was obviously tweaked. That’s why DH has so much screentime – as much as MH.

            As suggested earlier, please do try to watch Ep 8 – hopefully after watching one of the pivotal scenes in the drama, MH will grow on you. Maybe one reason why I grew to like MH so much is that the reformed rake is one of my favourite tropes in romantic stories.

            I am such a K-drama newbie and so biased towards BSB and Secret that hopefully someone more articulate and balanced can “sell” MH to you :)

             (2)


          • 32.1.1.1.3 DDee

            I’m not sure we’re meant to feel sympathy for characters who are written as extremes? At least I couldn’t, much less buy anything anyone did. I just watched like a rubbernecker passing by a car crash. But then again, you don’t really need to buy into anything in a melodrama like this, as long as you find the ridiculous ride entertaining or compulsive. Or in my case, find Ji Sung’s great performance enough to carry the show and make a repulsive character watchable.

            But, I will say that the cellblock gang rocked.

             (0)


          • 32.1.1.1.4 Celery

            @cynkdf:

            Oh yes, you reminded me of something that left me pretty puzzled – second male lead’s ample screen time. Second female lead doesn’t really get the same treatment (though I don’t really need more scenes of her being treated poorly by her douchebag friend/faux fiancee). I shall try and brave on till at least ep 8 then, as you have suggested :) Spanks!

            @DDee:

            Hahaha, likeability within the constraints of melodramaland I suppose. It’s jarring for me because I dislike no one except JS’ character (despite the crazy shit that happens and the stupid choices everyone else makes). And since I already know his revenge plot will conclude with him falling in *love* with the female lead, I’m hoping the eps leading to that will make him a lot less detestable. Because right now as it is, (ex) prosecutor is Prince Charming next to him. I guess I gotta wait out till ep 8 for the magic makeover then D:

             (0)


          • 32.1.1.1.5 Thursdaynexxt

            I actually found DH’s mom to be the most evil/heartless character of them all – but unlike DH’s gradual journey to the Dark Side, I think she was just born evil! (just in case you’re looking for a character that’s worse than JS! :))

            I’m currently enjoying watching Gangster Unnie in Let’s Eat!

             (0)


          • 32.1.1.1.6 cynkdf

            Re the four main characters of Secret – have you read the insightful character analysis posted by Yumi throughout the OT dated 18 October? Love reading her thoughts about YJ, DH and MH in particular. In fact the discussions on Secret on OT during October and November have been most interesting and entertaining, and for that I thank all the contributors.

             (2)


        • 32.1.1.2 Celery

          @cynkdf:

          Thanks for being such an awesome helpful sweetheart. I will read it after I watch episode 8, which I am planning to do so today.

          @Thursdaynexxt:

          Hahaha, the mom’s shouty ways = epic lulz. Oh, one of the reasons why I am going to catch Let’s Eat. Has she been relegated to secondary character status again?

           (0)


          • 32.1.1.2.1 cynkdf

            @Celery, you are most welcome. Source Naver – Gallup Korea conducted a poll entitled “Actors who lit up 2013″ and both main leads of Secret are in the Top 10 – Ji Sung is second and Hwang Jung Eum was voted ninth. Too bad BSB isn’t in the list but I can live with that :)

             (0)


          • 32.1.1.2.2 Thursdaynexxt

            @ Celery: yep, looks like she’s playing some sort of repeat of her City Hall role – the disgruntled married woman supporting her hubby and kids.

            Looks like she gets some good screen-time, though – always look forward to seeing her around!

            Right now, I’m kinda looking at “Let’s Eat” as “Flower Boy Next Door: The Next Generation”, or one generation up, anyhow! (well, I thought the Flower Boy Series was gonna evolve into a Flower Ahjusshi Series at some point…). Highly anticipate a show that will be just as quirky!

             (0)


  33. 33 coby

    Heads, I always wonder what’s behind your nick. Now it finally dawned on me, with your drama picks, you surely needs 2 heads for that!

    I always appreciate that you are taking those dramas that were sort of difficult to watch and actually bears it till the end.

    **hugs

    If only I have 2 heads, I’ll probably finish Sword and Flower, Basketball, Mirae, Heirs, That Winter…, and would probably watch Shark and Empire of Gold.

    Heartless City can take the title “The Undercovers”.
    I remember posting on instagram the used tissues when I watched Queen’s Classroom. haha

    With different reviews on this site, I wonder why no one mentioned “When a Man Falls in Love”. I know 2 of my friends watched it.

     (3)


    • 33.1 Windsun33

      I would say that “When a Man Falls in Love” rates about the same as Her Legend, Nail Shop Paris, and Hundred Year Inheritance. Watch it only if you are into scraping the bottom of the barrel.

       (3)


  34. 34 Darlina

    thanks for the recaps.rest assured that i am always reading and visiting this page.will always stay as a fan.KUDDOS

     (1)


  35. 35 Cynthia

    HeadsNo2, I bow to thee. Just the fact that you slogged through some of the most awful, boring and ludicrous kdramas ever aired and stuck with them, well – I ♥ you!!

    It also helps that now I know that we have a mutual bond of suffering through 50 eps of 100 Year Inheritance. Crazy cakes from beginning to bitter end. It was a total black hole suckfest! And I couldn’t drop it, no matter how many times I yelled threats at the screen. Sigh. It was kinda like Dr. Jin, no? Inescapable.

    Thank you for all the time you’ve devoted to us and your recaps! May 2014 shine with lots of beyond wonderful Kdrama!

     (3)


  36. 36 Kelinci Biru

    Hi, I tried to watch Heartless City, so many times, but can’t even get to first 10 minutes. Its not the drama fault, totally just because I’m more a romcom gal. Then, after reading your comments (thanks for not spoiling anything!) I’ll give it a second try, skipping to episode 2.

     (1)


  37. 37 yas

    Thank you HeadsNo2!

    Agree with 4 of your 5 top drams. Haven’t had a chance to see The Queen’s Classroom yet, but will make time during the next few weeks.

    Glad to see your review on “Empire of Gold”. Go Soo was amazing as Tae-joo. I also enjoyed the numerous conversations between Choi family members at the dinner table or at the office alongside a cup of tea. Its a shame that most people will overlook this drama since its not your typical melodrama.

     (4)


    • 37.1 Kelinci Biru

      Out of 5, that’s the only one I’ve watched and its amazing. Amazing cast, they had very good chemistry and for someone(s) so small, they can convey so much emotions.

      I was kinda hopeless with the drama selection in 2013, but Queen’s classroom definitely a highlight.

       (0)


    • 37.2 eli_n

      Empire of Gold has been on my radar for a while but I’m hesitant because it’s not my usual fare…

      Is the ending any good? The comment Heads made about it has me having doubts. I’ve been burned out by a few terrible endings already :/

      I know romance isn’t the drama’s main focus but how does it go?

      Sorry for all the questions!

       (0)


      • 37.2.1 yas

        The ending was a bit of a letdown, since Jang Tae-joo (Go Soo) decided to act differently from what his character portrayed throughout the drama. I would also add that the last 4 episodes started to drag a bit, but overall EoG had good pacing and riveting dialogue.

        EoG is mostly about how different family members in the Choi family want to gain control of the chaebol (Sungjin Group). Meanwhile, Jang Tae-joo is tired of living in the slums and wants to have a better life. He teams up with Yoon Seol-hee (Jang Shin-young) and set up a real estate consulting firm. The drama follows how Jang Tae-joo and different members of the Choi family want to gain control of Sungjin Group in a 20 year time span (1990-2010). I know the real estate/finance jargon can be offputting, especially if you’re not familiar with these industries, but the drama managed to demonstrate how human greed can go great lengths.

         (0)


      • 37.2.2 Anonymous

        The ending is a toss up. It all depends on how you perceive Jang Tae-joo. If you think he’s the guy fighting valiantly against socioeconomic odds, then you’ll probably hate the ending.

        I however, find it “unexpected, but totally necessary” because MY perception of Jang Tae-joo is a far darker one of greed and obsession with “the game” and control. In that perspective, the ending makes perfect sense, and I would say it is the most fitting for him at that point.

        For me personally, the EOF was about Choi Seo-yoon’s world and how Jang Tae-joo and the rest of the Choi family ended up hijacking what she perceived to be the natural order of things. Taejoo is still the lead and the antihero, but the world of EoG (the foundation of the drama) revolves around her. Anyway, it’s a tragedy on multiple levels, so be prepared.

        Btw, I also didn’t think Yoon Seol-hee was TJ girlfriend at all and not the “OTP,” (there isn’t really one) so take my words as you will.

         (1)


  38. 38 Iviih

    !!!!!!!!!!!!! Queen’s classroom !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Finally! Some love for it! A review!

    Let me love you Heads, my heart dropped everytime I checked Year in a review 1 and 2, and no mention of Queen’s classroom.

    So happy you put it on your top 5. I like your taste in dramas, thanks for your recaps.

    Queen’s classroom really touched my heart, who knew a teacher and her students would move me so much? The kids acting was also so good. The show moved my heart, made me angry, made me think over things and life… really, not every drama can do it.

    I feel so sad that because of the show ratings they won’t receive any awards. I think GHJ should win a award for her role. Her character was really hard to play, and I think she did well if with. The kids, the kids! Will them win some awards? They deserve it so much, so much potential.

    It is funny how at first I was really thought the drama would not appeal me/be interesting and it stole my heart.

    I want to watch the end of world or Virus but didn’t find it subbed before, hope I can find now.

    Thanks again Heads!! <3 <3

     (4)


    • 38.1 Iviih

      did well with it **

       (0)


    • 38.2 Celery

      She was superb in What’s up, Fox. I admit, QC isn’t something that I would be interested to watch, but if I ever do pick it up, it’s because she’s a great actress,

       (1)


    • 38.3 Eddie

      Yessss GHJ was pretty AMAZING, wasn’t she?

      The drama itself has some problematic points but still, cried my eyes out watching it T_T The child actors were superb, too.

       (1)


  39. 39 rheapill

    Among the dramas listed above i have seen 5 & dropped 5.

    Watched (Fave – Least Fave)

    The Master’s Sun – The Master’s Sun, it was great & highly recommended to everyone but there were some missing stories in it & i felt it was somehow incomplete.

    Shark – has its appeal to me, i just loved it. It didn’t bore me even, i dont know. I really wanna watch it at first because i like Son Ye Jin & somehow wanted to see Kim Nam Gil act (i like him as Bidam in QSD). But then ratings seem low & some say its slow & soo makjang & mellow. Then i stumbled some positive reviews & comments which made me switch my decision to watch it. At first i only want to know about the drama & watch their younger counterparts then wait ’till the drama ends for me watch without waiting, but then again i failed. Episode after episode, it left me craving for more especially when the main acts started to show up. Later i know, i was on episode 13, lol. I didn’t even realize it. That’s how i like the story:)

    Secret – I simply love the story of “she killed my loved one-i want to let her suffer-but i am slowly falling for her-why?” It was a refreshing story & Hwang Jung Eum has been taken out from my hated actresses list :)

    Heartless City. So true, the 1st eps i felt like i’m having a headache literally because of the darkness of the drama (dark set, dark outfits, dark concept). I wasn’t even sure why i was watching it. Many said that it was really good and blah blah blah. i gave it a try but I almost dropped it after watching 1st episode. The actors are not popular though i have seen the main lead act on Time Between Dog & Wolf & on I’m Sorry, I Love You, but the others, it was my 1st time – Nam Gyuri & the rest of the cast. Good Thing was I have a lot of time back then & decided to watch until 3rd episode if it fail to impress me then goodbye. But, but I started to get curious, & the drama started picking up each episode, then, bang! I finish it sobbed a little for his bestfriend’s death (i love their friendship, i actually envy it :)

    That Winter…The Wind Blows – Not a fan of Jo In Sung (my sister is while I’m more of a Kang Dong Won addict) & Song Hye Gyo was ok to me. The earlier episodes was good & exciting & i thought there would be a lot of fists & kick here, haha but it was mellow. It became boring & i almost couldn’t finish it but then, my sister was a fan of JIS, so we finished it together & just like its ending, the drama overall, for me, was wasn’t great.

    Dropped:
    Mirae’s Choice – i knew it wasn’t good just looking at the cast except for YEH, the rest esp the main lead was meh. But given that i kinda liked her, i watched & stayed until ep9 but I cant help but feel sorry towards Yonghwa’s character. I hate that Mirae feels more attachment/ like Kim Shin more than See Joo. Hahaha I know it was a very lame excuse but i also didn’t like how the writer never used the going back to the past-meeting my own self concept better. That story would’ve been really really great if it was written with more imaginations. Sigh, YEH pick a better next time ok?fighting!!!
    Empire of Gold – complications, power struggle, money, money, money, ambitions, I have seen enough of that. I would rather watch Yawang instead of this. I dropped it after watching episode 5. I just couldn’t get through the real estate thingy…
    Heirs – I have watched so many BOF types of drama. Just in the 1st ep PSH cried? like again crying? Well then again, I…

     (4)


    • 39.1 rheapill

      I have watched a lot of Asian drama’s this year & I would’ve liked to post my personal favorites :)

      1. In Time With You (Taiwanese drama) One of the best asian dramas i have seen & well maybe the best Taiwanese drama I have seen in a very long time. I was & still is in love with the character of Li Da Ren (Bo Lin Chen). Their concept of “I love my bestfriend was well written & so realistic to the point that i envy Cheng Yao Cheng (Ariel Lin) wishing that i have a bestfriend like Da Ren. A drama i really loved so much, i cried, laughed, realized so many things in life, the value of friendship was religiously shown. It’s definitely one of my top10 all time asian fave dramas to date! This is the only drama i have watched that has a very satisfactory ending.
      2. Last Cinderella (Japanese drama) I love Miura Haruma & he’s hot here, so? & the story was delivered & acted greatly. I’m a sucker of noona-romance so yeah :)
      3. Soulmate (Korean drama, i know I’m too late to discover this gem, but better than late than never right?) I just finished it 2days ago & well now I felt in love again with a fictional character after a long time (the last time was with the main lead in the drama above IN Time With You). Shin Dong Wook & Lee Soo Kyung has great great chemistry. I just love the you’re my FATE/DESTINY story. It was written nicely & despite all the unnecessary fillers, the meeting of the main couple would make you feel that the wait was worth it :) i love so much this drama.
      4. The Woman Who Still Wants To Marry. Simple, witty yet so addictive. I simply love the friendship & love story of Kim Bum & Park Jin Hee.
      5. In Need of Romance (2012) I enjoyed it. It was refreshing, not so dramatic & the romance of Choi Jin Hyuk & Jo Yeo Jeong & the friendship of the 3 girls made me stick to the show.
      6. I Hear Your Voice
      7. Shark
      8. The Master’s Sun
      9. Secret
      10. Phantom/Ghost

      Runner Up:
      1. Heartless City
      2. Bu Bu Jing Xin
      3. Yawang: Queen Of Ambition
      4. Hanzawa Naoki
      5. Two Weeks
      6. Itazura Na Kiss Love Story in Tokyo
      7. School 2013
      8. That Winter, The Wind Blows
      9. Bidal Mask
      10. Innocent Man
      11. Fugitive Plan B
      12. Brain

      I guess i have written a lot today:) lol Im currently watching Empress Ki & waiting for the pilot episode of You Who Came from the Star.

       (4)


  40. 40 kooriyuki

    kudos to HeadsNo2 for all the wonderful recaps and writeups (and tweets)!!

    you deserve more than complimentary sandwiches! have a great holiday!!

     (1)


  41. 41 Gidget

    Wow, great review. Queueing up your top suggestions.

     (0)


  42. 42 DDee

    Awesome year end review Heads! Really enjoyed reading your take on these dramas, especially on Heirs’s “virulent classicm”. +1000! I hope you have better re-capping luck next year ;)

     (1)


  43. 43 Brian

    I really like that each of the recappers have different likes and dislikes regarding their drama choices. I think that I’m somewhere in between when it comes to tastes. I believe I like light fluffy shows, but sometimes I’ll watch an action thriller like 2 Weeks that will hook me. This year there was a lot of supernatural stuff like Master’s Sun and I hear your voice that I enjoyed.

    But others like Empire of Gold definitely intrigued me, as I watched some episodes over the air — I still haven’t decided to download the whole lot or not. And then there is 100 year inheritance. Weekend dramas can be taxing, but I decided to watch it anyway, since someone said that the mother-in-law was really mean. Well, she was everything you could ever ask for and more. I thought for sure, they wouldn’t go there, would they? But sure enough, they went there, and Eugene was thrown into a mental hospital, LOL. I think though, that that was one of the differences that allowed me to watch the show without too much fast-forwarding was all of the crazy zaniness. With Lee Soon Shin you had a birth secret that wouldn’t die, and yet should have been thrown out within the first 20 episodes. Instead it became a boat anchor that weighed down the actors in spite of their talents.

    In 100 year Inheritance, you weren’t sure where they would go next, and you were waiting for the point where they found out that the daughter’s crush was someone that mother dearest maligned. The show just blasted through sanity with all the bluster of an assault rifle on full automatic. It made most of the cute, tender moments boring, though.

     (2)


    • 43.1 mandelbrotr

      Brian, I agree about seeing different tastes in dramas.

      HeadsNo2, Your taste in dramas is very different than mine so it is fun to see your perspective on dramas I would not have looked at. I may take a look at your some of your top picks which weren’t even on my radar. Also, love your image collages!

       (2)


  44. 44 JayJay

    I love your recaps because your taste is so similar to mine :D to me the best drama of the year was “heartless city” it had everything to be awesome and it was! I can’t say anything about the “end of the world” because I didn’t watch, actually I didn’t even know its existence (lol) :D nice recap!

     (2)


  45. 45 Shiku

    Thanks Heads!
    We have similar tastes and I’m so happy that EotW, Queen’s Classroom were your top picks like mine. I haven’t

    Thanks for the review heads!
    This year has been a strange year for me as I watched the least number of kdramas in my 4 years of being a k-drama fan. And of those I watched, 3/4 of them were left unfinished e.g. FBND, 100 Year inheritance, Shark,GFB, JOJ LiL,etc.
    Even though I didn’t watch or finish all of them, 3 of my top dramas are similar to yours; EotW, Cruel Palace and QC. It’s nice to see the dramas get some attention since they are under the radar as they are overshadowed by mediocre ones.
    I have yet to see Cruel city, Nine or EoG but I will put them in my cure.

    Lastly I have to thank all the you, JB, GF, and gummy for the fabulous work you guys do by exposing us to dramas we may not consider watching e.g. 9, cruel city. While at the same time help us to avoid train wreck dramas like Heirs, MC, Sword and Flower, etc. I really appreciate it!

    I sincerely hope the next drama you recap will be an awesome one to make up for the horrible ones you had this year. (or maybe you can recap EotW, wink, wink).

    I hope you have better luck next time in picking a recapping drama

     (0)


  46. 46 earthna

    End of the World! That was the title. I was so excited when they announced that drama and I wrote a mind note to watch it but because of so many things happening to me, I completely forgot. Thanks for this, I’m gonna watch it. hihihi

     (0)


  47. 47 Eddie

    But you put Lee Jin-wook in the center!!! Lol
    I do love Nine, one of the best in 2013 imo :) And I think we all agree that the hero’s best friend is awesomeee, I wish he had more screen time in Secret.

    Tried to watch the more popular dramas like Master’s Sun, IHYV, GFB, Good Doctor and few others but couldn’t finish any of them *sigh*

     (1)


  48. 48 cheekbones

    Thanks, Heads, for the review.
    Now I want to watch Heartless City and End of the World.

     (0)


  49. 49 sunflower63

    Thanks for this great review!! I totally agree with your choice of Heartless City as I also consider it one of the best of 2013 together with Two Weeks and Nine. Unfortunately Two weeks was not included in your review and I would be very curious to know what you thought about it.

    I also wanted to thank you as I have written down other three dramas, End of the World, Empire of Gold and Cruel Palace that I missed watching during this year and that I will certainly watch very soon.

    I also agreed with many of your opinions on most of the other dramas of this year.

     (0)


  50. 50 dearly

    This year drama released were quite unforgettable. I hope next year will be better. And AHYI was a deeply terrible drama (do NOT watch it. Ugh. The same sh*t torture happens over and over. Ugh.)

     (0)


    • 50.1 Brian

      You mean forgettable. Unforgettable means that they are memorable. Forgettable means that something is bad enough to be forgotten.

       (1)


      • 50.1.1 dearly

        Correct. **Forgettable.

         (0)


      • 50.1.2 ilikemangos

        haha, unforgettable could have a negative connotation to me just as it could be positive. I will never forget those shows that were so crazy, over-the-top, and shitty the story was that it will forever be ingrained in my head as what NOT to watch.

         (0)


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