Kolorful Palette: Waiting for the train [Healer]
Healer is off to a decent—but not fantastic—start and that’s actually something I feel surprisingly happy about. This year’s slew of dramas have been full of great beginnings and at this point I’ve started to dread having my hopes dashed (I don’t think I’ve ever left so many dramas unfinished). Healer had a perfectly enjoyable first week, but I’m probably more likely to keep enjoying it with a set of realistic expectations in place, and I won’t be so crushingly disappointed if I ultimately end up dropping it. In the meantime it’s something that feels fresh, and offers a nice change of scenery from the more regular fare I’ve been watching.
So far my favorite part of this show has actually been Yoo Ji-tae as Reporter Kim Moon-ho, and I don’t even think I’ve seen Yoo Ji-tae in anything before (I guess I need to watch more movies). He actually feels like the lead so far since he’s had so much screen time, not to mention the most emotional complexity and and a strong connection to all the other main characters. I’m certainly the most invested in his story and I don’t think I fully understand his motivations yet but I want to. He’s that approachable but somewhat mysterious type of person that it’s hard not to be drawn to, and we’ve already been shown that he has many facets to his persona. I can even see him making some dark choices if he’s pushed hard enough, and that could get interesting. Good old brotherly rivalry. Classic.
Moon-ho may be great, but the actual lead isn’t too shabby himself. I think we’re supposed to feel sorry for Jung-hoo since he eats take-out alone in a dark underground apartment, but for some strange reason I find myself admiring him. He knows what he wants and doesn’t seem unhappy or like he’s yearning for another life. Playing full-scale video-game tennis and living on a gorgeous private island doesn’t seem particularly terrible, and I almost wish he would achieve his current dreams instead of falling in love and changing. I even sort of like that he’ll take on any job, regardless of its moral implications. I’m borderline concerned that I feel this way, but I think it’s just nice to have a lead who doesn’t live either a completely miserable life or a pure and self-righteous one. Jung-hoo simply does his job well without holding himself to any lofty ideals or sacrificing what he wants for others, and we rarely see that in dramas. He’s selfish in a mature and realistic way, and although that’s not a trait I value in real life, I apparently admire it on TV.
The fact that Jung-hoo is so slick and collected also provides some extremely amusing contrast when something finally does break through his cool exterior. Probably my favorite detail from the entire first two episodes was the look on his nerd-disguised face while he watched Young-shin dance with her father in the cafe. This is a guy who barely even blinked when he saw his own photo in the bedroom of his target (Young-shin), but was consumed with sheer horror at the sight of her shamelessly dancing to bad music. It cracked me up.
I suppose I can’t complain about the characters at all because I’m actually loving Young-shin too. This is quite possibly my favorite role for Park Min-young, whose characters often end up coming off as a bit vacuous (even when they’re supposedly intelligent). In Healer she may not be book-smart, but it’s still the most savvy I’ve seen her and I was actually impressed that she can pull off a quick-talking, quick-thinking, risk-taking reporter so well. I’m used to seeing her a lot more wide-eyed and a lot less obviously capable, but this type of character suits her much better.
This scene I drew is from the subway tunnel right before Jung-hoo enters badass mode and takes out his competitors. I honestly had a lot of good scenes to choose from (a good problem to have) but this shot felt the most different from what I’ve drawn recently and had the added benefit of getting my brain working (even with simple images it’s surprising how much trickier it can feel to draw on black paper instead of white). I’m tempted to keep watching Healer even if it takes a turn for the worse just so I can keep drawing Jung-hoo look cool. I’m a bit shallow when it comes to such things.
Based on what I’ve written so far it probably seems odd that I’m not completely smitten with this show, but it does have its flaws. Probably its biggest issue is the pacing and abrupt changes in tone. In the first episode we jumped around from intense action to confusing family backstory to cutesy tabloid reporting, and it didn’t all mesh very well (the music didn’t help). The worst was the ending “cliffhanger” where Young-shin fell into Jung-hoo’s arms on the bus. Considering they had never met it had literally zero impact, and finishing an episode with an eye-roll is never a good thing. Thankfully it was a one time incident, and I was very grateful to see that the future skinship scenes didn’t feel remotely romantic (which suits the characters at this point in time). The scene where Jung-hoo robbed Young-shin and then clipped her fingernail was one such scene, and that scene was great in a lot of different ways. It was appropriately terrifying for Young-shin, but business-like for Jung-hoo, and it was well-choreographed to boot. It’s clear that Young-shin knows some self-defense, but Jung-hoo very specifically counters all her moves. Usually if a girl in a drama knows one judo flip she’s good to go, so it’s nice to see that basic training can actually be countered by advanced training. There aren’t usually a lot of in-betweens when it comes to damsels in distress versus ultimate girl-power, but I love in-betweens (you’ve probably noticed).
My other big beef with this show is the glasses. I can’t help but think that Jung-hoo would be so much cooler without technology from the future in a pair of glorified safety goggles. Can’t he just be scarily competent in his own right, Bourne Identity style? He’s at his best when he’s not using them, and this isn’t sci-fi or some Avengers movie where we’re going to nerd out over tech. It’s a small thing, but it annoys me frequently, and somehow takes away from the intensity of Jung-hoo’s scenes.
Overall though, the concept behind Healer has a lot of potential, and I think that concept could be much more fully realized if a primary tone was decided on. Personally I’d hope for something that feels slick and stylish with compelling action scenes, but we’ll see. Either way, I’ll be tuning in next week.
- Healer: Episode 2
- Healer: Episode 1
- High-speed thrills for hire in action drama Healer
- No mission too impossible for the Healer
- Reporters and buried secrets drive action thriller Healer
- Ji Chang-wook leaps across skyscraper rooftops for Healer
- Healer’s cast lineup and first script reading
- Healer secures cast, KBS reshuffles fall/winter lineup
- Ji Chang-wook, Park Min-young in the mix to join Healer
- Yoo Ji-tae signs on to new Song Ji-nah drama Healer