Team Dramabeans: What we’re watching
by DB Staff
How has this week in dramas been for you? I’m watching a ton of shows lately and yet I still went looking for something new… and then immediately regretted it after getting myself addicted to Tunnel. Oh well, guess I’ll sleep when I’m dead. –girlfriday
My Secret Romance: I tried to watch this when it premiered, but couldn’t get past the first episode; the production values felt so low-rent that it almost turned me away completely. But once I got past the first episode, I warmed to the humor and hijinks and blazed through all the episodes. In a nutshell: If you like watching beautiful, stern-faced, stoic-looking men being reduced to a mess of petty jealousy and enduring comically mortifying situations just to get the girl to look his way, and if you can get past the low-budget vibe, you might find this worth watching for the story and Sung Hoon’s comedic acting.
Man to Man: The main draw of the show for me was its comic sensibility, putting our stoic secret agent into fish-out-of-water hijinks and watching the funny misunderstandings unfold. I was never drawn into the spy storyline and tuned out the missions and pretexts, so my attention drifted when the show got all serious and melo last weekend, because it’s never been the emotions that hooked my interest. The character logic is there, but I guess I just don’t care that much.
Father Is Strange: I loved that Lee Joon finally got to bond with the other sisters, and was so gratified when he helped them glam up in tiny backhanded retaliation against the hated sister-in-law. He feels like that voice on your shoulder telling you that it’s okay to feel petty human emotions, which can feel very satisfying. I really like how Unni’s making the argument about marriage being disadvantageous to modern women and not wanting that life for herself, but I feel conflicted about her possibly reneging on that stance to marry anyway. I do think she loves her sunbae, but I agree with her reservations too much to want marriage for her right now. (That mother-in-law!)
Ruler–Master of the Mask: Why is Yoon So-hee so awful in this? I don’t remember her being this terrible before, but she’s foot-level bad here, and it’s distracting. Her interpretation feels so off the mark that I almost think she must be trying to do something intentionally… I just can’t figure out what that is.
Suspicious Partner: Loving this. The rapid-fire banter is refreshing, the picture is crisp and beautifully shot, and the thoughtful monologues are poignant. Love the two main characters independently, love them together, can’t wait for things to get complicated. *counts down till Wednesday* Is it Wednesday yet?
Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Satisfying, cathartic, and entertaining all the way through. I got off this ride in the best mood, humming the theme song, and wanting to get back in line for another spin.
Whisper: You know what almost made me give up on this show this week? The awkwardly shoehorned-in romance, which is weird given that the pairing was the appeal when I started watching. Go figure.
Ruler–Master of the Mask: Did they blow through too much story in the first two weeks? I hope not. I mean, there’s going to be more to this than trying to fool the waterlords about the prince’s identity right? ‘Cause… uh…
Suspicious Partner: I wish the mystery were a little more mysterious, but the rom-com shenanigans are great. And for some reason, I really enjoy the fact that these lawyers are kind of terrible at their jobs.
Man to Man: But… why would the super-spy go back to the people who know his secret? This show is still light and fun, but man does it put some serious strain on my suspension of belief muscles.
Chicago Typewriter: It’s a little jarring to see the hero being so nice and emotionally stable, but I’ll take it.
Tunnel: I just started watching this and am now obsessed. Why didn’t anyone tell me to watch this sooner?! Friends don’t let friends miss out on good dramas!!
Currently recapping: Man to Man
Individualist Ji-young: Ji-young and Byuk-soo are so darn cute and heartbreaking and I just want to pet them both and tell them that they are good little doggies and I’ll never let anything bad happen to them anymore. Of course I wish this could’ve been longer, but I like the idea of dramaland allowing the opportunity for different kinds of stories and shows to shine. Because I think this show may have had a few more episodes in it, but definitely not sixteen.
Whisper: I wanted this to be a complex and layered examination of human weakness and redemption, but instead the show seems obsessed with its predictable game of endless checkmating. It’s fun the first few times, but after the ninety-ninth go around it becomes less of a story and more of a formula. The show had some really interesting ideas and some profound reversals like how Soo-yeon defied her parents and was willing to throw away everything in order to marry Jung-il, but later is nearly coerced into marrying him against her will. And Dong-joon, who feared the ruination of his reputation but deliberately threw his good name into the fire so that justice can be delivered to those who evade it. Those instances are great, but I wish the entire show were executed in a less exhausting and repetitive way.
Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: The ending had some highs and lows, but I feel like at least one of the major Hong clansmen/women should have died. I’m all for happy endings and I really did love the scene where Ga-ryung told the story of Chief Hong to those kids while Gil-dong was tending to a fire nearby. It was a wonderfully warm scene because those two actors sold the hell out of their love story, but the fact that everyone survived at the end felt almost untruthful to the story and tone that was established previously. It’s a shame because I was generally impressed with the fresh take the show took on class and equality in a sageuk setting. Maybe the point the show was trying to make is that the common people and the Hong clan suffered enough so they deserve a perfectly happy ending.
Saimdang, Light’s Diary: What an epic waste of fourteen years of hype. It makes no sense to basically redo Dae Jang Geum without fundamentally understanding how dramaland and its treatment of women has changed over time, especially since that’s exactly what made the show so successful. The portrayals of marriage were a mess in both past and present timelines. Saimdang’s husband was so deplorable and I found that entire plotline difficult to watch. I understand that there was little tolerance for women getting divorced in that time period, but did she have to go so far as apologizing to her cheating husband for making him feel “lonely” and “inferior”? Don’t try to make Saimdang an ideal Confucian woman in that regard but have her disregard those ideals in basically all other aspects of her life. In other news, all the paintings were lovely.
Mystery Queen: Finally these two begin to act like partners! Their dynamic chemistry has been severely underutilized until now. I had difficulty watching Seol-ok’s usually empathetic character constantly snapping at Wan-seung for essentially doing his job. This nearly took me out of the story — since I’m mostly in it for the buddy cop angle — until the secondary characters helpfully pointed out that her behavior was strange and something must be going on. I’m trusting in their judgment until I get time to watch this week’s episodes. Also, I’ve been listening to Kwon Sang-woo’s dreamy rendition of Lies, Lies, Lies on loop for two weeks!
Strong Woman Do Bong-soon: I’m only four episodes in, but I’m having a really hard time watching this drama. Park Bo-young is alarming levels of cute, but her character feels undercooked. There are problematic stereotypes in use — with minor efforts at subversion — that feed into a lot of our underlying prejudices. The toughest part for me was when Bong-soon watched a woman be groped on the train and did nothing, presumably because she didn’t want her powers exposed. But that doesn’t require superhuman strength, only a loud voice and a willingness to face down a creep. I find that I can’t relate to her at all. For now, she’s most likable when she’s dealing with her crush on Ji-soo’s character, and in any and all scenes with Park Hyung-shik, who is gold. But I’m watching this drama for the Strong Woman, and I need her to quickly become someone I can root for!
Hwarang: Yes, I know. I’m far behind the lot of you. But boy, am I glad I waited. I would have exploded from anticipating weekly episodes. This way, I can glut myself on the pretty. SO MUCH PRETTY. I get the feeling that this is what Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo had wanted to be in many ways. The rivalry between the young nobles, the brotherhood and camaraderie, the stirrings of romance… and all of it underscored by larger political machinations. I love it. I was a little miffed to realize that Park Hyung-shik was going to be second lead in the love triangle, but remembered that Park Seo-joon’s characters have a sad habit of falling for their fake sisters and felt that it’s right that he gets the girl this time. I’m only halfway through, but this drama is already my favorite sageuk of the year. I can’t imagine anything topping the excitement or glee of watching these flower boys on screen together. Hehe.
Currently recapping: Mystery Queen
Man to Man: Episodes 7 and 8 just took this show to another level, from a humorous watch to a truly affecting, heart-twistingly good drama. Even the formerly ridiculous action scenes have improved—the big warehouse fight with Oppa holding it down outside was badass and touching. It’s hard to convincingly play a love story where the hero is lying to the heroine about his feelings, but I think Man to Man did a really good job in showing tiny breaks in Seol-woo’s robotic poker face, making his eventual feelings totally believable. Also, Do-ha gets more awesome with every episode. I love that she’s brave enough to admit that she loves Seol-woo and that he hurt her, without letting him off the hook for his betrayal. I appreciate that our changing perception of her as a character is driven by smart and consistent writing rather than, say, an unexplained lobotomy. Now that Do-ha and the two men who care about her have teamed up to fight the baddies, I can’t wait to see what hijinks the three of them get up to.
Father Is Strange: Lee Yuri is always amazing, but her portrayal of Hye-young holding in her pain until she broke down was so well done and true to the character. I love how badass she normally is, but it’s good to see her honestly face the heartbreak that made her so unwilling to open her heart again, and decide to take a chance on Jung-hwan. Also, how cute was her bonding with Joong-hee over their mutual hatred of Yoo-joo, and his awesome revenge plot to take his “sisters” to the salon so they could show up the obnoxious bride? You could just see how happy it made him to be let into their circle, and that made it even more crushing when he was left out of the family wedding picture. I hope that Dad’s secret gets revealed soon, partly because that way they can openly adopt him as a family friend, and partly because I couldn’t fully enjoy his dumbstruck reaction to Mi-young’s makeover, knowing that he still thinks of her as his sister. (Come on, Show, fauxcest is so 2005.)
Individualist Ji-young: This felt like an indie movie in two parts, and it hit exactly the right notes. Our leads started out completely frustrating for opposite reasons, and although I’m not usually a fan of the romance-between-extremes trope (so often it feels like that’s their only conflict and/or they’re meant to “fix” each other), in this case it was very effectively done. Rather than being two damaged people who fell in love and healed each other, their relationship made them reevaluate their methods of dealing with past trauma, and whether living as they were could really make them happy. For two people who were incredibly sensitive to emotional wounds, their journey was about stepping away from their extreme coping mechanisms, and finding that one person they could trust with their hearts. Min Hyo-rin and Gong Myung also had wonderful chemistry, and it was lovely to see their characters bickering, bonding, and falling for each other.
Suspicious Partner: I can’t decide if I’m glad I started this now so I can watch every episode as it comes out, or if I wish I’d waited to marathon it so I wouldn’t have to withstand the torture of waiting every week. All I know is that I’m head over heels for this in a way I haven’t been in a very long time. Nam Ji-hyun is always great, but as Bong-hee she kills me with her combination of bravery, vulnerability, practicality, and recklessness. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a self-aware drama heroine, and her simultaneous acknowledgement that she’s completely gone for Ji-wook and that she needs to move on from her hopeless crush just gets me in the gut. She can’t help but be giddy over the smallest show of kindness, even as she tells herself that it means nothing, and that feels so real. Yet it’s not a delusion at all, because the more Ji-wook insists that she’s turning his life upside-down, the clearer it becomes that he’s getting addicted to having her around. In those fraught, heart-pounding moments when they lock eyes and the world fades away, I find myself making noises that small animals make, because damn, that chemistry. Here’s hoping I can survive until Wednesday for my next fix.
Tunnel: Out of all the dramas on my plate at the moment, this was the one I was antsy to get caught up on. The pace has definitely slowed since the big reveal about our serial killer (I KNEW he was shifty from the beginning!!), but I don’t even care right now because I’m too busy enjoying all the cute character moments, especially between Kwang-ho and Jae-yi. Their bonding scenes were beyond adorable, and I found myself nearly tearing up when Kwang-ho was nagging her like the crotchety old ajusshi-dad he is, and she was obviously moved by his concern. It’s also hilarious how Sun-jae is trying to get close to her, but getting stymied by his partner. I’m just so glad Kwang-ho’s secret is out in the open to all our central characters; the comic-relief detective pair had the best reaction to the time-traveling thing, though I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when Kwang-ho went time-traveling twice within one episode. When this all ends, Kwang-ho, you’d better wait on your long-suffering wife hand and foot, mister.
Chicago Typewriter: I’m with what seems to be the popular opinion when I want more of the episodes to feature the 1930s timeline. I don’t really know how to explain it, but everything just seemed that much more poignant with the big reveal this past week about Yoo Ah-in’s part in the freedom fighter movement. Maybe it’s the whole Clark Kent/Superman dynamic, where he’s the hero Im Soo-jung is looking for, but he has to hide it all for the greater cause. And now that we know who it is that she shot, I’m just waiting for the show to wring the tears out of me. The whole faux-father-figure author and his crazy (like clinically insane) wife, I can do with less of. Seriously, the lady needs to take her meds. The relationships in the present are cute, and I like the friendship that’s developed between the ghost and the hotshot writer, but I do have to say all of my emotional investment is in Carpe Diem and its inhabitants.
- Team Dramabeans: What we’re watching (May 13, 2017)
- Team Dramabeans: What we’re watching (May 6, 2017)
- Team Dramabeans: What we’re watching (April 29, 2017)
- Team Dramabeans: What we’re watching (April 22, 2017)
- Team Dramabeans: What we’re watching (April 15, 2017)
- Team Dramabeans: What we’re watching (April 7, 2017)
Tags: Chicago Typewriter, Father Is Strange, featured2, Hwarang, Individualist Ji-young, Man to Man, My Secret Romance, Mystery Queen, Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People, Ruler–Master of the Mask, Saimdang Light's Diary, Strong Woman Do Bong-soon, Suspicious Partner, Tunnel, What We're Watching, Whisper