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[2018 Year in Review] Thrill me, heal me

“What is a healing drama?” Someone asked me this a while ago, and it wasn’t difficult to give the obvious, glib answer: A healing drama is a drama that makes you feel healed. “They’re like gentle hugs,” I added. But I’ve come to feel that at the heart of that question is a deeper inquiry of what dramas set out to do, and what we want to feel when watching them.

Every drama watched is an investment—of time, of emotion, even of money—and investments demand return. But for the first time in my drama-watching career, I found it a year of slim pickings, and too many dramas I watched left me feeling unfulfilled. Few were actively bad, but blustering mediocrity coupled with one particularly bad element sometimes made a show feel more offensive than perhaps it really was.

Maybe that’s why I finally learned how to drop the ones that were rubbish. It’s the bitter bite of dramaland’s medicine that I first had to learn to recognize my own feelings, and realize that pushing through an unrewarding drama (*cough*Radio Romance*cough*) was not some kind of worthy exercise in personal development—ironic for a person who has a chronically hard time finishing all the things she starts. It’s weird how hard it was to understand that that heavy feeling and the accompanying anger (“Why isn’t this show getting better?”) were symptoms of the obvious: boredom.

To be honest, the end of last year found me in something of a drama-existential crisis: Having become a thriller-junkie some years ago, was I capable of enjoying anything else? Could I enjoy a romance if it didn’t involve murder and/or mystery? Or at the very least, some rapacious, rascally revenge? Was there something… wrong with me? (Don’t answer that.)

Happily, the crisis was brought to an end of sorts with last year’s Temperature of Love (which no one loved but me, lols)—a romance, wholly romance, and nothing but a romance. The fizzing high it gave me grew into a springboard to wean myself off thrillers and reintroduce myself to gentler genres.

My year began with I’m Not a Robot, and it’s remained my incomparable runaway favorite show of 2018 without any competition (I should’ve given it ALL my beans). In the drama, a reclusive and lonely chaebol who suffers from an allergy to humans (Yoo Seung-ho) strikes up an unlikely relationship with a super-advanced humanoid AI robot (Chae Soo-bin), who is in fact a human pretending to be a robot.

It’s a brilliant work on so many levels, setting up as a modern fairytale, with all its attendant symbolism, finely-tuned visual metaphors, and social commentary. Yoo Seung-ho is both Beast and Prince, living in a house of cards destined to come tumbling down. When she’s not a robot, Chae Soo-bin is an entrepreneur with a dreamer’s heart. She’s resourceful and ambitious, and works hard to negotiate her own space, and her right to exist in a world with little room for her unusual ideas.

The show’s stratospheric highs were purchased with dashing lows and some truly exquisite angst—and I hate angst! Yoo Seung-ho came to us an already-broken hero but the show wasn’t afraid of breaking him again, and that’s some fierce dedication to healing: It has to get worse before it gets better, right? Robot joyfully inverts familiar tropes, resulting in a self-determining heroine who saves her prince, a hero who learns how to be a human from a robot fauxbot, and a rich world full of people you care about, all while being deliciously funny, touching and painful.

We know Yoo Seung-ho so well as a dramatic actor, but I just love that through this show, he revealed a heretofore-unknown gift for comedy, particularly at his own expense, and I sincerely hope it’s all we’ll see from him for the next few years. Do you hear me, dramaland?

Broken heroes are no rarity in dramaland. If anything, they’re our favorite type. Best of all, we know the story will resolve around their remaking. But broken heroines? That’s a much scarcer breed, and nobody did it better this year than Shin Hye-sun in Thirty But Seventeen.

On waking up from a thirteen-year coma, her character Woo Seo-ri has to confront not just a changed world, but her own lost time, and the loss of everyone she ever knew. Isn’t that the cruellest form of time travel? She ends up latching onto Yang Se-jong, the man she finds living in her old house.

Before the show aired, I worried about how a romance between a 30-year-old man and a seventeen-year-old-girl-in-a-30-year-old-woman’s body would be packaged, and could it even be done without being… creepy?

The answer is yes. The show finds both protagonists in urgent need of healing and maturing, and it navigates its potential problems with surprising sensitivity. Yang Se-jong presents as a barely functional adult, locked in a state of arrested emotional development. He has true connections to only a very small handful of people and acutely fears having more, which makes what grows between him and Seo-ri such a lovely, tender thing, as each finds helps and healing from the other.

The early stages of Seo-ri’s recovery also give rise to some of the most tragicomic scenes of the entire show, which you laugh through only because the alternative is to cry. It’s as painful as it is desperately funny, and doubly moving because Seo-ri’s unwavering optimism at times can trick you into forgetting how hurt she is beneath it, and how hard she’s working to catch up to the 30-year-old self she wants to be. She ends up fashioning not just a family around her, but a fandom—of people who love her and would go to hell and back for her.

Though they share some similarities, this show felt quieter and more introspective than Robot, focusing on the small, everyday aspects of ordinary people finding their way, and learning to recover from trauma. It’s a quality that makes their journeys, especially Seo-ri’s, feel so intensely relatable, personal and ultimately cleansing, for them and for us. This show was not without its flaws, but it offered healing of the purest sort: the affirmation that life is worth living. It told us that it’s alright to spend some time in the space in between while you find your direction again; the intermission is also part of the show.

The only other heroine who can hold a candle to the rosy flame of Woo Seo-ri is You Who Forgot Poetry’s Woo Bo-young (Lee Yubi), maybe the most lovable woman in all dramaland this year, and the face that launched a thousand shippers (not to mention 1x Motorcycle of Humiliation). But whether you were a Ye-liner or otherwise, we all agreed that those were just ways to root for our ultimate ship, which was Bo-young herself.

Bright without being trite, she won me over again and again with her endearing transparency, emotional honesty, and an unfailing talent for endlessly embarrassing herself. Best of all, our poetry-loving heroine didn’t fall prey to the trope-machine, and the show took genuinely unexpected forks in the service of her agency and the choices she made for herself. It’s interesting from a storytelling point of view, and some might argue it didn’t quite work, but I love how committed it was to centering her, and that outweighs any other uncertainties for me.

Poetry never set out to be a medical drama, and it came in with the same low-key note as Thirty But Seventeen but from a reversed perspective, putting the focus on the staff of a hospital physiotherapy department—a team you can imagine might have been the very ones rehabilitating Seo-ri. (Shh, this is the reality I’ve decided on… oooh, maybe the Woo girls are long-lost sisters with a birth-secret… dramaland is a small place, anything is possible!)

From hospital to airport, Fox Bride Star was another drama which set out to tell a healing story, but ended up not quite landing for me (har), though I really loved it at points. It suffered from inconsistent writing and couldn’t fix on what kind of story it wanted to tell, ultimately not delivering on any of them. Lee Je-hoon’s hero spends the majority of the drama refusing to confront his deteriorating condition and makes a slew of self-destructive choices which I felt were never really adequately explored.

Acceptance is so vital to healing, but the show never really took his character there, which is a shameful waste of an opportunity for a drama that was so nearly on the verge of doing something meaningful, if they had just allowed their hero to exist in his real condition, without augmentation devices—not to prefer death to being disabled, nor to come back magically cured. Instead, a stubborn ableism underscores the trajectory of his character and struggles, leaving us with a dismaying set of real-world problems in its representation of disability, and a brutal parting message that heroes can’t come in wheelchairs.

That’s what makes I’m Not a Robot even more precious for not “curing” its hero, but teaching him how to live with his condition “like a lifelong friend.” It offers a philosophy of illness that is comforting and rounds it off by making sure we know that being disabled is no sin, and that a cure has components that go beyond the pharmaceutical to things like having a rock-solid support system and friends who won’t let you fall. (You were in the wrong Chae Soo-bin dramaverse, Lee Je-hoon!)

We can’t talk about healing without talking about hurting, and I have not been so burned by a drama this year as I was by Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food. The show lures you in with what turns out to be a false promise, turning the perfection of the early episodes into a poisoned chalice. We were treated at first to a nuanced examination of sexism, sexual harassment and assault in the #MeToo zeitgeist. We watched adult children claiming back their autonomy from their parents; of taking risks with changing cherished long-time relationships. All of it was drawing together towards an inexorable, rightful conclusion… until it suddenly wasn’t. Pretty Noona comprehensively and cynically violates the creator-viewer contract, reneging on itself so thoroughly that I find it nothing short of viciously insulting. It was a viewing experience so crippling that this many months later, I’m still unbelievably angry about it.

To soothe that burn with the consolation that it’s at least realistic (and thus all the cleverer for intentionally subverting our expectations) is a line of reasoning I find somewhat disingenuous; it lays the blame on the viewer for being naive, rather than the writer for making a dog’s dinner of it. But for all its technical storytelling problems, what’s really toxic is the insidious narrative it leaves us with.

In the real world, we don’t control the whole story; we don’t get to write better endings for ourselves. It’s so damn hard to be a woman, as the show never lost an opportunity to remind us. In that world, in that fictional world at least, give us justice. If you give us the disease, give us the cure. That’s the whole point—a point that Your Honor, at least, followed through on, with Lee Yoo-young’s trainee lawyer. She fights back, not just against a predatory and powerful senior, but a rigged system that closes ranks against her the moment she speaks up. It’s not that she isn’t punished (she is), but she’s steadfast and doesn’t fold despite her soft-spoken nature, and that’s what makes you love her.

Healing requires change. Pain and provocation provide the means for it, and growth is the result—but not, apparently, for pretty noona Yoon Jin-ah (Sohn Ye-jin). No matter how much pain she went through, she remained resolutely unchanged—such a far cry from the tenacious, hard-won progression of our other heroines. To go through the life-cycle of your character and not evolve one bit? That’s a tragedy. And that’s what Pretty Noona ultimately is—a tragedy with nothing to redeem it.

Pretty Noona is the perfect example of a profound failure of justice, and that brings me right back around to why I watch thrillers. Thrillers offer a special kind of healing: They deliver justice in a way real life doesn’t. It’s also why a good revenge melo has so much power over me. Time looked like it was going to be the new Secret (they share a writer, after all) until it lost Kim Jung-hyun, and with him, its electric spark.

My thrillers this year comprised a mix of the dark, the light and the trippy, and my favorites came in at opposite ends of the spectrum. On the darker side, Sketch was a police thriller revolving around one detective’s supernatural ability to draw crime scenes before they occurred. It proved a gripping study of what makes an anti-hero, charting the choices that lead our characters to slide into villainy, along with their attempts at redemption, and the often grim consequences of their choices.

At the lighter end, I nearly broke my face grinning through Lawless Attorney, which sees Lee Jun-ki and Seo Ye-ji team up in an equal, respectful, badass partnership that was actually better than their romance. This is Lee Jun-ki at his smirking, snake-charming, action-hero best, the likes of which we haven’t seen for years. Oppa! I hereby officially forgive you for Criminal Minds.

The story isn’t necessarily new, but it’s smart, cheeky and flamboyant, seasoned with a dash of heartwarming gangster-bromance. It delivers some great character beats, especially for its restrained, atypical arch-villain—a female judge who rules over her town with a velvet-gloved iron fist, played by Lee Hye-young, who also gave us a complex performance as family matriarch in Mother earlier in the year.

In the trippy department, I feel a little embarrassed that Life on Mars wasn’t as sticky for me as it was for everyone else. I’m convinced I’m missing something and I hope you guys can tell me what. Perhaps it’s because I never quite fully made sense of the end? Though Jung Kyung-ho plays an intense, slightly fey hero, which I ordinarily love, he remained emotionally out of reach for me, and I mourned the life he seemed to leave without living.

Heal. That’s what most dramas set out to do, one way or another. These are harsh times in the real world, and many of us go to dramas to find relief: It’s escapism at its most altruistic. But dramas also hold up a mirror to the world outside, creating a distilled version of reality through which we can interpret our own experiences, and that’s another type of healing altogether, especially when shared with all of you. I hope you guys will share below what you found thrilling and healing in 2018! ❤️

Though I spent less time recapping this year (sob), I tried lots of new things, made new drama-friends, and had fun with you all on the fanwall and in drama watch-alongs. I even figured out how to do that twitter thingy! But the cherry on my chocopie of drama-awesomeness is a tie between a K-drama sleepover with Beanies, and getting to meet the legendary @odilettante in person!

Thank you everyone for making it a great year—let’s play again next year! In the meantime, I leave you with the wise words of your favorite long-legged nephew: Don’t think, feel!

 
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This was great @saya! The first three shows you mentioned are my most memorable shows of this year. (Although I ended up not liking APAD)

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We all know why you ended up not liking APAD, Captain. And I may have the same reasons. 💔

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Have you started Just Dance? It will make your heart go from 💔 to ❤️

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uh uh, In this list I dropped
I am not a Robot (every one praises it but I had some problems with the drama which I don't really remember now)
Lawless Attorney, I wish the drama was little subtle in many ways
Sketch. It could have been much much better with the concept but sigh again! Rain got to flex his muscles a lot.
Thirty But Seventeen. Was interesting in the beginning but it would have benefitted with some short ep count. They dragged the story by the end or in the middle.
Pretty Noona. Dropped
Fox Bride Star. The show had such heavyweight subjects in its hand but the way it treated was disappointing and even stacking the drama with unnecessary politics and gangster thing. I can't help but wonder how good this drama could have been in some other brilliant writer's/PD's hand.
Judge. I so wanted to watch this show for the heroine. I wanted to know how she will survive her situation. But sometimes its frustrating to watch the same actor playing two characters. Because in an attempt to distinguish between them they will resort to extreme mannerisms. But glad to know that the heroine emerged as a winner by the end.

I don't remember why I dropped Poetry, it was a nice watch even with some flaws. I may pick it up again.
Life of the Mars was good.

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Thought-provoking writing as always, @saya.
My taste seems to run in very different direction than yours this year, since the shows you mentioned didn't leave the same level of drama-stickiness for me. Thankfully I dropped Pretty Noona after only a handful episodes, so I just need to soothe my anger and hurt over Fox Bride Star's ending. (Thankfully, Life delivered a beautiful message about living with disability earlier this year)

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I dropped so many shows this year. Pretty Noona, Beauty Inside, Ghost Detective, Third Charm, Wok of Love. And never picked up a bunch of popular ones either.

I'm still sore over Fox Bride Star and 100 Million Stars. So much potential wasted!

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Yes, Life was sooo much better (I mean, it's really in another class in many ways) in engaging with the issues and stigma around disability.

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Amazing review @Saya I read it through twice because I was nodding my head in awe at how you strung thoughts together.

LoM was the most thrilling for me, even though it didn't stick for you. It was so epically engaging, so mind-bogglingly surreal that I was sucked in from the start to the end with the amazing family-gang Tae Joo had created.
The Guest was also a new frontier for me because I never watch kdrama horror but the rom-coms this year refused to stick for me. Off I went to watch this gruesomely fast-paced drama and whilst the ending lacked steam it was still an adrenaline rush for me.
Mistress and the current Children of Nobody are also such intense thrillers that I feel I'm going to have to convert my kdrama genre preferences!

As for healing, I didn't watch a whole lot of 2018 kdramas so my pickings are limited to the incredible Mother and Matrimonial Chaos. Both written by the same Japanese author. Mother was dark, brutal and so difficult to watch but such a cathartic thrill-healing experience for me whilst, MC was such a great realistic slice-of-life, I felt refreshed after watching it. 💖

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Life on Mars- the whole premise is the main actor not really knowing which reality is real. Same with the British and American broadcast for it. The original producer of Life on Mars said the Korean remake stayed more true to the original script with its own unique cultural flair. It is a healing drama because and through the old cases he was able to heal. (His father issues, his need to catch the serial killer, etc.) I wouldn't be surprised if it was indeed an actual time warp, because throughout the series he felt discombobulated. I'm sure if someone went through the same thing, they would have difficulty differentiating what was real.

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Red Moon, Blue Sun/Children of Nobody is so, so good, and badly underrated. Every week I'm left with my jaw on the floor thinking, how does this show just KEEP GETTING BETTER? On the one hand, I'm afraid that means the end will be a let-down, on the other...I'm a believer. If I had another week to write the review (I handed it in last week), RM/BS would definitely have got a mention.

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I cross fingers every week that this drama doesn't go off the rails. It's gonna be one of my faves of the year if it continues to be so good.

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It makes me think a lot of 2014's Pride and Prejudice - a legal thriller with Choi Jin-hyuk and Baek Jin-hee that was not widely watched. It was a really dense drama, dark and gripping with a single underlying mystery that drove the whole show. Well worth the watch if you haven't seen it already. It's one of CJH's two standout roles (the other being Tunnel).

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Yes to Children of Nobody being a favourite! I'm in shock too at how it just keeps on being so good . It's like I'm perpetually in awe and wonder at how the intrigue holds. I'm so glad @saya and @sorrynotsorry are in love too! I really hope it doesn't go off the rails too and Pride and Prejudice is officially on my watch-list even though it sounds like a rom-com 😂

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I promise to finish watching Lawless Lawyer (I was enjoying it but I stopped at Ep5, forgot the reason why I did what I did) because Seo Ye Ji is definitely my new girl crush.

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When you return to it, just be prepared for them eating ALOT of Subway.

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The best part is when they're like, 'we haven't even been on a date yet', and theeeen.....cut to Subway 😂

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I can say that we have different tastes in drama. :)

I found very stupid IANAR, that I couldn't finish it (too much unrealistic) and I loved Pretty Noona (made me feel so real).

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Thanks @saya. That was a masterful article! I found more to thrill than to heal this year.
Thrilling:
The Guest- Race between successful exorcism and another eye stab.
Red Moon Blue Sun- Everyone's a suspect and almost everyone is a victim.
Alhambra- Creepy to kill and be killed repeatedly, and by a dead person!
100 Million Stars- Could have been healing but show went the way of a tragedy. Thrill came from who's going to kill whom first.
Sketch- Lots of ink used in this one. Interpret the sketch before the next murder, and guess who's going to die.

On the verge between thrilling and healing: Life On Mars- Choosing between living and dying, between the natural and the other worldly was actually an uplifting and hopeful end to me.

Healing:
Just Between Lovers- So much brokenness and pain, and so much hope.
30 But 17- Living the best way we can is perfectly a valid life even for an imperfect life.
My Ahjusshi- Help, growth and redemption.

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Yes, to me Just Between Lovers was the number one drama of the year and the number one healing drama, too.

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Nice post. But you forgot to mention the most healing drama of the year 2018: My Ajusshi.
Maybe you didn't watch it.

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Waiting patiently for a proper review of the masterpiece in My Ajusshi

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I pray for that day to come🙏🏻❤️

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Yes, please! I really hope someone would do it before the end of the year.

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Best healing drama for me is My Ajusshi. I honestly didn't watch any of the aforementioned dramas (I'm planning to watch Life on Mars this holiday season!), but My Ajusshi will always win my heart. ♥️

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Mine too!! Best drama ever.

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She didn't watch it. She was scared it would take her INAR beans.

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I find it hilarious I don't even need to speak for myself 🤣

@javinne, I missed out on two of the most loved dramas this year - My Ajusshi and Just Between Lovers. I suspect this review would've been very different if I'd managed to fit them in. I guess I stuck to the lighter fare - it's hard for me to gear up for a heavy melo when RL is heavy melo! But I intend to watch both and will probably regret not watching them in time for this year.

(Lucky for me, my biggest regret right now is that I didn't make bean history and just give INAR all my beans 🤣)

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I missed out on JBL too and for the same reasons - I find melos can be a bit much and I did fit in My Ahjussi, Time and Come Here and Hug Me already.

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I understand. Life is sometimes a Melo, and unhappily for long periods of time. But by the way, in between MA and JBL I have to say JBL takes the prize (even so, I loved it).
You guys watch whenever you are ready. I can only say it is worth...
Me, I am still trying to find the courage (and the time) to watch Live and the most beautiful goodbye. 😊

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Very well written, @saya! I have seen most of the shows you mentioned and I can understand your sentiments. I put all my beanies this year to I'm not a Robot mainly because Chae Soo-bin and Yoo Seung-ho make a lovely pair.

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What a seriously great article! Thank you!

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Thank you for such a “healing” piece, @saya! I’m so glad to see that so many people enjoyed 30b17 because it was the best healing romance I watched last year. It was understated, and never set out to be something more than this. I have respect for political and social commentaries in dramas, but it’s usually not why I enjoy watching them. So when Pretty Noona so heavy handly pushed sexism and harassment and emotional abuse on to that lovely story of falling head over heals in love and actually showing us how a modern couple would act, I was done with it too. There’s a way to subtly make that point without giving all of us heart burn. I didn’t watch any thrillers this year, except for the airing Memories of Alhambra, and I tend to steer away from them (Forest of Secrets was the last one I watched). I think it reminds me too much of western shows, and I like kdramas for the unique storytelling and the tropes. But you put a spin on them that I hadn’t thought about. Maybe I’ll pick up more!

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And I wanted to thank you and and @laica for your mini recap for Pretty Noona as well! I went crazy for this drama and really thought it was going to end up differently than what it actually was. Being burned by dramas really sucks. But I did follow your recap religiously even after I dropped the show!

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Ain't that the truth. Thanks for sticking with us through the whole wretched show! ❤️

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I love love your writing, @saya! You described the poison Pretty Noona forced down my throat so perfectly. I am still in detox.

Woo Bo-young is definitely one of my all-time favorite heroines of Dramaland. She is cheerful, tenacious, honest, and kind. I just realized that perhaps the reason I really like Park Bogum's Kim Jin-hyuk in Boyfriend is that he is the female version of the poetry-loving Bo-young but suffers a lot less humiliation (although not necessarily less pain) at work! 😆

Thank you for my favorite question of the week: "Could I enjoy a romance if it didn’t involve murder and/or mystery?" Therapists rejoice everywhere.

Cheers to all of us for some good ol' holiday healing, through dramas!!

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I also would like to express my sincere gratitude to @saya for so graciously agreeing to recap You Who Forgot Poetry. APAD-crazed Beanies like me latched on your fan wall post and begged shamelessly for you to take on a task during a very busy time of your life. Thank you and fighting!

For us not to forget all the beautiful poems in this wonderful little gem of a drama, I would like to celebrate our Dramabeans community with a poem from episode 6 when Bo-young invites Min-ho to the buffet for his birthday:

Family
by Choi Bum Young

If you can’t say you’re hurt when you feel hurt,
You’re not family.
If you can’t say you’re happy when you’re happy,
You’re not family.
A sweet and soft ice cream cone
Isn’t enough to become a family
Pain, happiness, and love must be shared.
And you must endure all hardships in prayer
Until you can feel it together.
That’s how we become a family.
You must be able to express your sadness
And be able to cry together to be a family.
You must be able to express your happiness
and be able to be happy for one another to be a family.
You must feel like you’re under the same blanket
no matter where you are to be a family.

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Oh yes, thank you @saya for launching that famed OT Thread for A Poem A Day! Also thanks @kimbapnoona for yesucitating that poem from the APAD archives- the poetry of APAD was what made it a "healing" drama for me.

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I loved doing it - it was so fun and rewarding (unlike anotherrrr OT I did ugh).

I almost forgot the actual best part of Poetry: the hospital flashmob! That was like knocking a hole through the fourth wall (without breaking it completely) and giving us a wave. So good. Every time I watch it, I feel cheered up.

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"Therapists rejoice everywhere."

🤣🤣

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Great list. I'm Not a Robot almost hurt too much. It's his eyes they can break your heart.

My two Healing dramas would be My Ahjussi and Healer.
Thrilling would be the first part of A Hundred Million Stars and to a lesser extent the first half of Cheese in the Trap.

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*has nothing intellectual or brilliant to add, so*

Thank you, @Saya! I nodded my head through your piece so much, I think the hinge loosened and knocked my block off. In a good way!

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Thank you @saya. Youve spoken so eloquently (of course) the drama part so there's only one thing i can add. Here's to hoping we fortify our friendships here! Hope to see you soon!

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looking forward to it! you have to promise not to be disappointed by me in person, though, lol. *is disappointing in person*

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Thank you @saya, beautifully written. I snatched healing pieces, which feel to me like a warm bath, from a few places this year. The beginning of Pretty Noona, for example, when they were just so in love. 30 but 17 was healing all over, and I find that a lot of what's needed for healing must be in the baggage that I bring with me. The extreme webtoon humor, colors and characterizations of Secretary Kim were just the balm for my soul at the time and I joyfully wallowed in the performances of its stars. What it was healed what was ailing me just right. Most of Hwayugi managed to do the same. So I guess I need humor for healing, and silliness and ott wardrobe.

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2018 was a terrible year in dramaland (for me). Not into silliness, sci-fi, exorcisms, ...watched less than half my usual having dropped many after a couple episodes. If I'm feeling miserable watching a show (Ghost Detective, Less Than Evil) I just drop. Finished Cdrama Yanxi Palace, it was so good! Hope 2019 has more realistic dramas.

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Thank you for mentioning the very disappointing ableism in Fox Bride Star. I had hopes that they would unpack it, and maybe he would decide that using a wheelchair wasn't fate worth than death, but nope. They just magically gave him a bobot arm/leg and then tv magicked away the problems it caused.

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I would agree with most of the analysis on Pretty Noona. It was one of those shows where great acting overshadowed the script. I was disappointed with the ending (it should have ended at the family wedding). But after watching the BTS and reading the post-series interviews, I did appreciate Son Ye Jin's viewpoint on her character: Korean career women in their 30s often are immature, make the same mistakes, are conditioned to act a certain way and do not change their pattern of behavior. She pushed back on how the director and cast wanted her to portray her character. Though viewers had high expectations, SYJ kept her character with low expectations and low self-esteem to the very end. That "realism" turned off many viewers. I don't have a problem with dramas that do not have a happy ending, but Pretty Noona forced an ambiguous, happy ending which made no sense.

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It was less the realism that bothered me than the distinct sense of punching down--the conclusion it gave to all of Jinah's efforts was 'life is futile and if you dare to stand up, this is what will happen to you.' Cautionary tales can be useful, but if it's punching down, it's no longer a cautionary tale, but another way to oppress an already disenfranchised group.

Added to that, Jinah as the drama's protagonist was unbearably passive and had no self-awareness or evolution. Nothing about her ending was a victory, but she acted like it was. WTF was that about?

Sorry, I'm still so angry about this drama. I think its story would have worked really well for a 2-hour film, but for a 16-ep drama, you're following a different model and set of values. The *contract* is different. Argh! I could talk about this much longer but it's depressing, so I'll leave it at: I'm glad there were people who were able to enjoy it to the end! Sadly I wasn't one of them.

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I'm with you on "Temperature of Love", @saya -- it's still one of my favourite dramas from last year 😍
I dropped "Lawless Attorney" after a few episodes (I think I discovered EXO around the same time and spent all my free time watching EXO content 😃), but your review makes me want to pick it up again. Thanks for this lovely post!

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Unnie!!! And what happened to "I hear your voice"??????😱

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Aah, I meant to write you last week, I'm so sorry! I finished it two weeks ago, but sadly it didn't really draw me in 😕
Lee Bo Young was great and I liked her character the most. She was so perfectly imperfect and stayed true to herself. And her relationship with her mother was awesome at the beginning and heart breaking at the end. But I loved how her mother believed in her and took her side no matter what. Another highlight was the hate-love-relationship between the two female leads. Both of them have a strong character but are still likeable. I liked the dynamic between these two.
However, the romance didn't really work for me and I can't say why. I just never felt any chemistry between Lee Bo Young and Lee Jong Suk and it felt unbalanced since his character always knew what she was thinking, but kept so much secrets from her.
It's so odd, I really wanted to like this drama (especially since I loved the female lead characters), but somehow it just didn't really work for me. Anyway, I'm still glad that I've watched it, so thanks a lot for this recommendation! 😊

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It is ok. I am glad you watch it. For me, the romance was ok, although not super mega perfect; it is just that the romance is not the main reason why I like the drama so much. Instead, it is precisely because the plot is not focused on the romance, but on themes like justice, redemption, forgiveness and most importantly: avoiding hate. I think it taugh me a lesson about controlling your feelings although you cannot control things that happen in your life.
I cried so much with different scenes because I feel touched by these characters, even secondary characters.
And I think, except for the goofy legal stuffs that didn't make much sense (even though I am not a lawyer) it was cleverly written. Plotwise one of the best.
Personal note: I find it funny that in both cases, we didn't buy the romance (oh hae young again and I head your voice), but we still like other aspect of the dramas we recommend for each other. A matter of perspective, but both are valid. 😉
Thank you for answer me!!! 🙋

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This year was a year of dropping off drama's in mid-ep's for me.

If I counted all the dramas I dropped it would be a long list. The one's I adored were Life On Mars, Prison Playbook, 100days my prince, Radio Romance (Which was my guilty pleasure), Just between Lovers and currently Memories of Alhambra. Rest all were meh.

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Another great piece of writing, saya. I agree with your assessments on those I've watched. Noona was the biggest disappointment. No strong thrills this year. No heals as well. Maybe I'm still slumping. I was just in for overall good production and not for the subtle. Mr sunshine and the current Alhambra are making me stick to kdrama. Or could it be the convenience, eer Netflix you know. I just can't be bothered sometimes. I can hear my words; okay, I'm still in a slump. Merry Christmas for whom this time is. Great holidays for most.

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I too have now learned the Art of Dropping and I expect it will do wonders for my mental health.

The thing that strikes me about 2018 though is that there were actually some great dramas and starting the year off with INAR kind of primed me to just... expect more. So 2018 became disappointing not because of what was on offer but because I expected more from what was on offer than I did the year before.

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All of this. As always, you put everything I feel into words so beautifully.

Love you, woman. ❤️

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me too ❤️❤️ thank you for reading (and for sticking through stupid noona with me XD)!

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I couldn't have made it through Infuriating Noona without you!

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Beautifully written @saya, and I agree with you on much of what you say. As disappointing as Pretty Noona was, and it was a rage inducing disappointing, what I did learn from it was to drop the dramas that make me feel horrible. Boredom and disappointment are bad enough, but Pretty Noona's bait and switch from adorable romance to swirling cesspool of sexism and hopelessness was not the kind of entertainment I need in my life right now. I've got enough real life in my life, thank you very much. So now I know how to drop the bad drama, and keep the ones that give me actual joy. Even if that joy is watching exorcisms, revenge, and maybe a serial killer or two. Throw in a prickly lead, a band of misfits, and actual character growth, and I'll be very happy.

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... drop the bad drama, and keep the ones that give me actual joy. Even if that joy is watching exorcisms, revenge, and maybe a serial killer or two. Throw in a prickly lead, a band of misfits, and actual character growth,...

Ah @egads that's my kind of 'good' dramas too!

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sorry I was out at 'exorcisms'! 🤣 *is a wimp*

I'll stick with murder and mystery thankyouverymuch

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I'll take a Kim Jae-wook exorcism over an irrational second-lead Kim Jae-wook any day. But I respect your choices.

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@saya I know what you mean. I started out on The Guest with reduced volume and small screen so that I could 'hide' if it got too terrifying ... but found that after a few gory bits, it was relatively 'safe' and managed to sit through it all (and re-watch!) without cringing in fear or too much horror.

Now I'm slowly trying to pick up Priest and to see if my bravado holds up for another exorcist show! 😆

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I'm always interested in what people think of the dramas they took a look at when there is a little more distance. Your article has me wanting to check back into Sketch. I didn't drop it so much as put it on the backburner so I might give it another go.

I liked Lawless Lawyer and was relieved when the romance was kept primarily on the down low (the writer doesn't do romance well imo) and instead made these two true partners in their quest for justice. Still every scene in a courtroom was ridiculous (they all are in every single legal drama), but LJG and all the co-stars were great.

I've never been so happy to wait for a drama to be released on Netflix as Pretty Noona. By the time it hit Netflix, it had completed its run so the rage people felt was at a pretty high level. I hate when dramas go this way and just decided to skip.

I enjoyed many that you mention, but will admit to dropping Temperature of Love at the halfway point when the 2nd male lead was going to continue going for the girl and all that.... but oh well.

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I'm definitely in a tiny minority for Temp of Love, and I recognise a lot of the things I loved most about it were things that resonated for me in a very personal way. A couple of people have also pointed out that it was very much a writer's drama - the script at times was just breathtaking, and the Seo Hyun-jin x Yang Se-jong chemistry was also sky-high. Everything about it worked for me! But you should definitely quit if it doesn't for you!

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This article makes me really want to watch Thirty But Seventeen. I've loved a lot of shows this year, but Wok of Love (Greasy Melo) is the one that made me wish I could live in their world. I loved every minute, and even though it had a happy ending I still cried because I missed them so much.

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What a shockingly disappointing drama year 2018 has been for me. I've watched well over 350 dramas since mid-2012 and this is the VERY first year I barely found anything interesting at all. Is it really just me or is k-drama land taking a big down-turn? There were only three out of the maybe 25 dramas I struggled through (many abandoned) that were worth a damn and they were My Ajusshi, Just Between Lovers and Mr. Sunshine. What is going on????? Something formerly very precious to me seems to be slipping away or maybe my standards are changing. Whatever it is I hope the ship rights itself soon or I may have to go back to watching American TV on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

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Pretty Nona! Nossa aquela nona era tudo de ruim e me fere como mulher que vive em 2018

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I dropped everything except Life on Mars. The end made sense thanks to other beanies comments. He is already dead and the 1980s is purgatory. He never really went back.

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Great review!
Thanks for mentioning Degree of love, that I liked very much, but that seems underrated.
It has been the first Kdrama I have ever watched, and it is special to me.

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*Claps claps claps*
Nice review Saya ^^
The one's I actually finished were APAD & 30but17 & I loved both ^^ Love your take on the shows.

Also you are not the only one figuring out Twitter this year 😂 a very new experience for me as well

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I wonder why Live 2018 and Life 2018 are not mentioned

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Thanks for this! I also gravitate to thrillers and revenge dramas. And I also really appreciated Lawless Lawyer. A lot! Happy New Year.

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