Rating:
Average user rating 4.6
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Kolorful Palette: Let the games begin [Liar Game]

I have to say, it comes as a massive relief to finally watch a drama that delivered everything I had hoped for and didn’t leave me resenting its squandered potential. I’ve been clamoring all year for a show with twists and turns that actually carry through to to the end, and my hunger has been more than satisfied (if anything, I’m full to bursting). Liar Game delivered so much more than that though, and I can’t think of a drama this year that I’ve enjoyed more.

I’ve tried to think of something to nitpick, but the only thing that ever really annoyed me was the card game with Jaime where Da-jung had to pull cards out of a bag face-down (how could she know if the card was face down or not?). I’m generally a pretty eye-rolly person, so if that’s my biggest issue, I know I have a winner on my hands. Everything from the casting, to the pacing and directing was impeccably carried out to intensify the suspense that was so consistently present throughout this drama’s entirety. Overall it is a little disappointing though, since now I want more (and I know I’m not getting it, at least for a long time).

One of the reasons that complex stories often don’t work is that they use their complexity to mask simplicity of character. Red herrings and surprise twists are exciting and satisfying to a point, but often such plots are largely mechanical, and the characters are just devices for the viewer to observe the story through, and they act as nothing more than tinkerers trying to understand the cogs in a machine. What makes Liar Game work so well is that a lot of the complexity is a direct result of the characters and the choices they have to make. When a detective is trying to solve a crime, we know his motivations and we can pretty accurately predict how he will behave in any given situation. Liar Game is full of shades of gray, and there is never a clear right choice for anyone. Everyone is stuck in the pressure cooker together, and that has the added benefit of making me empathize with every single character. I never begrudged anyone for making a selfish decision, and if anything felt more conflicted about the “nice” decisions (which often seemed foolhardy).

Throughout every round of the game I found myself wondering what I would do in the given situation, and I could never come up with a concrete answer. So many perspectives made sense, and that’s an ambivalence that I love to feel when watching TV. I never even found myself able to blame anyone for anything (including Do-young). Did Woo-jin’s mother make the right choice about “selling” Do-young? Obviously not if you consider where he ended up, but in the moment she did something slightly questionable in order to save many more children (including Do-young himself who would have been out a home if the orphanage closed down). Would I have done any differently if I had been in her shoes? I doubt it.

What makes all these questionable decisions even more satisfying is that the characters themselves seem to sympathize with the others almost as much as I do. This isn’t just a bunch of people fighting tooth and nail to the bitter end, for revenge, or out of a sense of righteousness. Da-jung forgives and understands Woo-jin without actually needing to understand him, and Woo-jin ends up seeing Do-young more like a lost friend than an outright rival (at least that’s how I interpreted it). Even Do-young didn’t pull them into this game from a place of malice, and that makes everyone more believable and relatable (not to mention likable). No matter how television tends to depict human nature, I don’t think we naturally gravitate towards vengeful extremes, and instead try to trust and understand people when we can (even if it takes us a while to get there). How many of us found ourselves feeling sorry for Do-young instead of hating him? That’s human nature at its best.

Another reason reason the structure of Liar Game worked so well for me is that the complexity struck the perfect balance between confusing us, surprising us, and making us feel like we had figured some things out. For example, I had it figured out pretty early on that Do-young was probably from the orphanage, but I had absolutely no clue that Da-jung had been there too. It’s important to be thrown a bone once in a while so we don’t feel like complete idiots, but the surprises still need to be genuinely surprising while also making sense. Da-jung’s presence at the orphanage could have very easily felt contrived, but in retrospect it made a lot of sense (which is very important when it comes to plot twists!). I thought it was just one of those K-drama acts of fate when Da-jung quoted Woo-jin’s mom about trusting people, but nope, there was a reason she had that thought in her head.

I was also ready to be pretty skeptical about Da-jung forgetting about her past at the orphanage, but even that made sense. As far as she was concerned nothing particularly memorable or out of the ordinary happened while she was at the orphanage, and there’s no reason that she would think about it as an adult. I personally only remember about 1% of my childhood, and I can’t even imagine how many interactions with other kids have completely escaped me. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a drama reflect our memories in such a down-to-earth way though, and it’s little things like that which really make me appreciate this show all the more.

Woo-jin was perhaps the simplest of the characters and had the least dramatic arc, but Lee Sang-yoon was still perfect for the part and I don’t think I’d ever get tired of watching his clever manipulations. Da-jung was a lot more annoying, but I think that ended up making her personal story all the better. I think we all wanted to shake some sense into her at some point, but she managed to change herself without changing at her core, and that’s an impressive feat to pull off. Part of the reason she was so frustrating at the beginning was that she was naive and weak. Rather than turning her back on her virtues, she turned those virtues into strengths. She even managed to take down Do-young a peg when she called him out for his misguided ideals (and what a glorious moment that was). Rather than the Liar Game weakening her resolve and making her question her beliefs, it instead confirmed for her that she ultimately doesn’t want to change. That’s pretty badass in its own way, and made me forgive her for all her previous acts of stupidity.

The question of romance has been a big point of contention since Liar Game began, and although I expected it to happen I think the correct decision was made. Da-jung and Woo-jin had good chemistry, but they never really felt like the types to be attracted to each other in that way. The question of betrayal between them would also have felt more forced with a relationship at stake, and it would have provided a much weaker setup for a second season (if one happens). Besides that, when would there have been time for them to get smoochy? I guess they could have made this drama longer, but that certainly would have taken away from the suspenseful pacing. Their gradual growth of respect and reliance on one other was enough for me, and felt just right within the context of the story.

Of course the real scene stealer for me was Kang Do-young, and in the end he reminded me a little of Shrek. Perhaps a little stinky and slimy overall, but so many layers. He gave me chills in the best way possible, and what’s even better is that even he was ultimately a puppet. If there is a Season 2 it’s going to be insane. Shin Sung-rok has been doing a fantastic job in all his roles this year, and I couldn’t be happier to see his career taking off.

There’s so much to rave about that I almost forgot to mention the scene I drew. Whoops! Every time a drama comes to an end I hope against hope that there will be some gorgeous scene to give me an aesthetic sense of closure (does that make me ridiculous?) and once more Liar Game delivered. This is Woo-jin right after he burns his files on Do-young but keeps their orphanage photo, which besides being a great finish to his story, also showcases him in a rare state of vulnerability and sentimentality. Woo-jin was no doubt the show’s most emotionally introverted character, and that made this moment all the more touching. I actually wish I had painted this with real paint, but who knows, maybe I still will!

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. One of the reasons I love Korean dramas so much is that they are only one season and don’t drag on and on and on like so many American shows. Well, Liar Game is officially my exception. Ratings be damned, give us more! Please, Dramaland needs it.

 
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"Real Paint"..??

I thought you drew with real colours and embedded the drawing here...

Do you draw them digitally on computers?

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My husband and I watched this together. (The only other semi-current show he's watched is 3 Musketeers. I watch tons, he's more picky.) I agree with your comments. (And I loved your artwork.)

The only nit pick I have is even though I think I'm not too dense of an individual, brain-wise, I got lost each time an explanation of a game was given. Hub and I finally decided not to even try to figure out what the rules were, just to watch and be surprised.

But even then, we'd get frustrated. Still, it WAS a satisfying drama.

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it is sad that people will rave that a Kdrama is good and yet say in the same sentence that they hardly understood anything. liar games is centered on the games played, not understanding the games at all... how can one say they enjoyed it? joining a variety show to win grand prize but there is no grand prize, winning each round or game and getting the prize but it's not really yours... what is the point?

and the "backstory," is it really that big of a deal when it is such a cheap shot at storytelling... all three met at the orphanage, the villain orchestrated everything so that the three of them will finish playing the game... forget the male lead being a genius, the villain is the true genius.

and what second season? will the female lead play the real game when they excused her having debts as her real reason for joining? and why would she play again anyway?

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dont worry a lot of those games were very complex needing to be heard a few times

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I thought I was the only one doing that. Seeing comments here and there, I am incredibly amazed at how some people can express their ideas and theories in words, and there I am, I cannot even understand most of the mechanics of the game, hence, I tend to pause a lot (also I have to spazz bcos LSY is extremely cute and hot at the same time, for his age as well as SSR, being too cute of an evil character he is). Nevertheless, I didnt stop watching because Liar Game gave that satisfaction only a person with love for mysteries would have got. I never focused on the game mechanics anyways, I wanted the big picture because the game is just like a piece in the bigger puzzle that the characters are trying to solve. Hell, even Kang Do Young doesnt really "care" about the game itself and I'm certainly sure he didnt make the game just for full revenge (assuming he's the one who's really behind the game, or the ppl at walden two)

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This scene was so beautiful. Aside from the aesthetics, I love how this scene depicted Ha Woo-jin's closure for her mother's death and even his issues with Kang Do-young.

I agree with everything you've said Fanderay. A second season is really in order. We have barely scratched the surface of this world, and I am particularly intrigued with the bigger bad KDY is talking about. This organization is clearly a world bigger than him and if someone as formidable and genius as KDY is only a small fry in this group, then I'm on pins and needles to see how our main characters going to take them down.

Please, please, please let there be a Season 2 dramagods!

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For the scene to be nitpicked you mentioned, when a card was picked faced up it'd be returned into the bag. Which thus made the game unfair towards Dajung as the chances of picking Jamie's card were higher :)

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I was just gonna write the same thing, but to add to your comment, there is a way for her to know if she'll pull face up or down.
Let's say Da-Jung made the mark with her nail on left when it's face down, if she fells it on the right that means it's face up not down.
Hope that clears things up.

Also, I love your work Fanderay! I actually save a lot of them to use as desktop wallpapers. Keep it up and thank you for your efforts :)

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what if the card gets spun around while being face down? You could feel the mark of the right and the card could still be face down.

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Also, DJ marked the double sided card instead of her own card. This is how Jaime couldn't find the mark on DJ's card. The double sided card was always inside the bag while DJ was continuously pulling out her own card.

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The drama had its flaws: 1) confusing/not properly explained game rules and loopholes (the average viewer should be able to follow along); 2) heroine with an unrealistic point of view (thus dangerously close to not having viewers sympathize or empathize with her); 3) one-note hero with one-note expressions; 4) a large amount of side characters that were bland or became all bark but no bite; and 5) shaky plot.

Despite all that, Liar Game did a great job from letting those aspects ruin the show by managing to stir up suspense despite the confusion surrounding the games; showing potential that the heroine is not always prone to a Disney mindset (loved it when she turned the gun to Woo Jin and reminded him that betrayed trust is to be punished); creating chemistry despite Woo Jin being one-note; and letting side characters be interesting in their own ways during times when it mattered despite them being fillers. But best of all, Liar Game created a fantastic villain whose personal history was the whole storyline. It had a strong card in Do Young and it used it so awesomely that the show itself became rave-worthy and worth clamoring for a second season. Here's to hoping the writing can become a little better next time.

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Well, contrary to what you have exposed, Do Young was just too much of a caricature to me. While I could understand what was Da Jung's point and place in the story, and Woo Jin was interesting even though I agree that he had the same expression on his face 95% of the time, Do Young came off as an OTT one-note villain that almost ruined the show for me near the end (when he got too moustache-twirly for my taste). In fact, Do Young and Da Jung are two sides of the same coin, I just don't get why the Evil Mastermind gets so much love while the Good Heroine is mostly tossed aside by the audience.

In a game where everyone is so bad and twisted in ways that went beyond what's believable, a normal good guy (or gal in this case), should be the one we normal people empathize with.

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LOL! @ hello world

Your last paragraph then begs the question of whether we viewers subscribe to the notion that we are "normal people". :D

Well, OK, even being normal, our response was less that we disapproved of DJ, but rather we were taken with the oddness if the evil guy which peaked our interest. We cannot approve what he does, but we try to understand what made him that way.

In terms of being a rounded character, although DJ did exhibit changes along the way and was a much stronger person than she appeared to be, the growth trajectory seems so subtle that it was not immediately obvious to the viewer.

By comparison DY was so much more in-your-face and impressive, which made him seem more rounded, but actually, we still have only a sketchy idea of what he went through, come to think of it. But we have an idea of why he is where he is. Less so with DJ.

However kudos to Kim So Eun that she did not let her seemingly meek and humble character become a mere drip but rather that she stood her own against actors who were written to be so much more showy (DY and Jamie) or interestingly enigmatic (WJ).

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I think DY's actor had some over-the-top acting moments, but the show revealed that DY was probably seriously mentally sick. The show didn't provide in-depth explanations of what exactly happened to DY in the Walden Two experiments, but it revealed how it traumatized him and made DY into this show's villain. This show convinced me that he isn't completely empty inside and he's human...sort of. I think this sets him apart from some classic mustache twirling evil masterminds.

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Omg that card probability game with Da Jung and Jaime bugged me! I thought i was the only one who wondered how Da Jung gets all the cards face down.

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The show probably just didn't show her getting her card face up or didn't think it mattered. DJ's trick didn't allow her to get her one-sided card face down each time, but it ensured her victory.

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Not sure if I I understand you correctly. They revealed later on that every time she pulled a card and the face was up, it was returned to the bag. Although my problem with the game is that you'd have to be beyond dense to fall for that trick.

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i think some people are confused by how DJ kept getting her one-sided card face down during her 2nd game against Jaime. i don't remember if it was always shown to be face down, but getting it face down is 50%.

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ahh okay thanks! :)

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the only time she would put the card back is if she saw the face. otherwise, it would be put into play

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I thought this was a rip off drama of the American tv show or something but after reading your first sentence I really want to give this drama a chance

Fancy Nancy’s YouTube

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Yep, I agree with a lot you said here. Liar Game was a great drama for me, perhaps the best for this year. Yes, it had its flaws but it overwhelmingly made up for them.

The thing I really liked about Da-jung being part of the orphanage is the fact that they didn't come up with it last second. They actually tossed us hints (she recognizing the place before, she saying the same words), but we just didn't pay attention. Those kinds of things make me really appreciate a show because I like going back and being like "ooooh wow I completely did not notice this but it was there". When shows come out with last-minute twists, I hate it because I feel tricked. I'm not given an opportunity to think it would happen. But that was not the case here.

When it comes to forgetting it, to me it makes complete sense. They're not saying it's repressed memories (some people seem to be interpreting it like that) but that she forgot since she's young. I get behind that explanation because I barely remember anything from when I was young and everybody I know doesn't usually remember much from their pre-8/9/10 years of age unless it really stands out. (I don't think anything had reason to stand out plus her dad telling her it was summer camp probably colored her memories in that way). I moved from another country between 4-6 and the only reason I know that is because my parents told me - if they lied or modified it, I don't actually have any memories to know.

TL;DR there were flaws but otherwise great. Da-jung's orphanage stay was not a flaw in my mind.

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Your artwork looks beautiful. Loved that scene! It was a rare, quiet one with nature.

Liar Game was one of my favorite dramas this year. It wasn't perfect, but it was still enjoyable and held my attention.

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Such lovely artwork! I'm always amazed by the pieces you choose to do.

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"One of the reasons that complex stories often don’t work is that they use their complexity to mask simplicity of character. Red herrings and surprise twists are exciting and satisfying to a point, but often such plots are largely mechanical, and the characters are just devices for the viewer to observe the story through, and they act as nothing more than tinkerers trying to understand the cogs in a machine" This describes exactly how i feel about the Japanese version of the drama . Beautiful as usual. Have you ever thought of making you pictures available for downloads for k-drama addicts( like myself) this would make a gorgeous background. And I'm also obsessed with the one you did of Jung-Moon from Bad guys.

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Favorite drama this year for me too. For me the highlight was also Kang Do Young. Really think there should actually be a "Villain of the Year" Award at the award ceremonies and it should definitely go to Shin Sung Rok.

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now i wanna click the thumbs up button

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Yes, it was definitely one of the best this year (I'm a "It's okay" fan, I also think it was quite good). Surprisingly, I would say. I'm no fan of remakes, and am probably one of the few (if not the only one) who absolutely hated the Korean version of Fated to Love You, so when I heard about Liar Game, without even having watched the Japanese version, I was reluctant to give it a try. But it was awsome.

Game rules were explained in a complex manner, but I think it's also the Korean style of explaining games. I already found myself confused, more than once, at game explanations in Running Man haha Ultimately though, by watching them play, you come to understand the game, so it's okay.

Call me a hopeless romantic or whatever, I still hoped for a loveline. Didn't need to be anything overbearing, just two-three scenes would have been alright. They already had set the stage for it with a few, small hints here and there, and I don't think it would have been too out of line. Woojin was the first one to see Dajung's strength, and her trust and warmth towards him, which were significantly greater than towards other participants, could have become more. *Sigh* What a shame!

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On a different note, while I'm crossing fingers for a second season (CHEBALYO!!!), I'm also hoping the season thing is not becoming a trend in the Kdrama world. It's on for The Three Muskateers, and now Liar Game might hop on that boat too. One of the reasons I quit American, UK and Spanish TV was because of this system. You finish a season in a state of despair, then end up completely distanced from the show by the time the next season starts, not to mention that stories are dragged for so long that it always seems like it's the same shows on TV and there's nothing new. Better to end stories in one go, Asian style. Kdramaland, please don't get into this horrible black hole!!!!

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in the card game if da-jung pulled out a card without a face then it would be the 'back'

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