If You Wish Upon Me: Episodes 1-2
Ji Chang-wook is back in a lovely healing drama from KBS about a lost ex-convict who joins a team of hospice workers that grants final wishes to dying patients. I love a good healing drama, and the premiere week gave me just what I was hoping for. It’s got a warm, slice-of-life vibe and a strong cast of characters at its core. I’m already looking forward to the found family bonding and touching human stories in the coming weeks.
EPISODES 1-2 WEECAP
Given Ji Chang-wook’s recent drama history, I was a little trepidatious for this premiere despite loving the premise. Thankfully, this one is shaping up to be a keeper. Healing dramas are great when done well, and I think a lot depends on the vibe and not overdoing the sentimentally. If You Wish Upon Me gave me the right amount of likable and empathetic characters, human stories, and warmth. It made me want to grab a cup of tea and stare at the sunset.
We’re first introduced to YOON GYEO-RE (Ji Chang-wook) as he’s released from prison. He’s got tats and scars and his eyes tell you he’s seen things. Despite his tough exterior, it quickly becomes obvious that he’s a softie underneath.
Life has hardened Gyeo-re and taught him to depend on no one but himself. Gyeo-re ran away from his abusive father as a child and took himself to an orphanage where he spent the remainder of his childhood. He comes across as a loner, but he does have at least one trustworthy friend from the orphanage, veterinarian JIN-GU (Park Se-joon).
But Gyeo-re’s true bestie is his little dog Son who he rescued and is now unfortunately terminally ill. Yes, Gyeo-re named his dog “son,” and it’s adorable. While Gyeo-re pretends to care about nothing, he dotes endlessly on his dog, carrying him with him everywhere and belting his little carrier into the car seat.
Next up is Team Genie, our group of dedicated hospice workers and volunteers who work to grant final wishes to dying patients. Perhaps the most central member is volunteer KANG TAE-SHIK (Sung Dong-il) who now lives at Woori Hospice Care but used to live on the streets. He appears to be the ringleader here, although he’s not even staff.
And we can’t forget our leading lady SEO YEON-JU (Sooyoung), a hospice nurse with a love of exercising. She’s sincere and straightforward with a temper, but she’s also known for being somewhat oblivious. Everyone at the hospice knows DOCTOR YANG (Shin Joo-hwan) has a crush on her, but she cluelessly laughs off the idea.
Not all the staff are fond of Team Genie, though. Their dedication to granting patients’ wishes often leads to the bending of rules, putting everyone in a difficult position. Doctor Yang had been helping them, but he bows out due to the ethical conundrum it puts him in.
So then, how does our lovable ne’er-do-well end up crossing paths with Team Genie? Gyeo-re causes a car crash while trying to outrun his gangster hyung JANG SEOK-JUN (Nam Tae-hoon). As soon as Gyeo-re got out of prison, they came after him for supposedly stealing money. Although Gyeo-re claims he delivered the money as promised, the stacks of cash at his disposal lead me to believe the gangsters on this one.
Back to the accident, Gyeo-re’s reckless driving leads Tae-shik to injure his foot and prevents him from driving. Determined to get his patient to his seaside hometown before he passes, Tae-shik coopts Gyeo-re to drive their ambulance. He refuses at first but then realizes it’ll help him get away from Seok-jun, so off to the sea they go.
While Team Genie fulfills their patient’s wish, Gyeo-re sits alone on the beach. With nowhere to go and no one to miss him, Gyeo-re doesn’t see a reason to live and walks into the ocean with Son. Tae-shik sees and pulls him back, using the excuse that he should take responsibility for inuring him in the crash.
In the course of all this, Tae-shik realizes he knows Gyeo-re. In a flashback, we see Tae-shik being strangled by Gyeo-re’s father. Tae-shik sees little Gyeo-re nearby, heavily bruised and with a noticeable burn scar. In present day, Tae-shik sees that same scar. I’m already looking forward to the bonding between grumpy Gyeo-re, who secretly wants to be loved, and the empathetic Tae-shik.
Tae-shik takes advantage of Gyeo-re’s situation and convinces the judge to have Gyeo-re complete his community service hours at Woori Hospice Care. Gyeo-re doesn’t exactly make a great impression on his first day with his cavalier attitude, his tattoos, and his gangster suit. Oh, and the fact that he practically bowls over Yeon-ju and another staff member with his fancy sports car on his way in.
Bad first impressions aside, the staff still treat him well and try to include him, but Gyeo-re keeps his distance. He’s painfully unused to family-like settings and won’t even join them for dinner, which he so clearly is desperate to do.
The hospice may have gotten more than they bargained for with rough-around-the-edges Gyeo-re. He grumbles about everything from the uncool car he has to drive for Tae-shik to the food to whatever else annoys him. But his soft spot for desperate people and those in need soon betrays him.
His first mission with Team Genie is to help a dying elderly man get permission to spend his final days in his beloved family home. The family currently living there are about to move since the wife lost a lot of their money in poor stock decisions, but after some convincing, they take Tae-shik up his offer and stay elsewhere for a week.
Gyeo-re tries to keep up his tough guy facade, but can’t stop the tears when the elderly dying man takes his hand and thanks him for helping. He then spends all night crafting persimmons to hang on the man’s favorite tree outside so he can see them in the morning. Needless to say, Yeon-ju softens toward him after witnessing this and overhearing that he tried to commit suicide.
Although Gyeo-re pretends he’s decided to stay with the hospice because Son is comfortable there, he’s clearly getting some much needed warmth from Team Genie himself. When he returns to the hospice to get some of the elderly man’s things, he spots a mysteriously locked door. We end with Tae-shik ominously telling him to stay out of that room.
I really enjoyed the first two episodes and liked the balance between the overarching story and the individual stories of the patients being granted their final wish. Although we have our main characters, it is more of an ensemble drama which is nice. The cast was a draw for me, and they didn’t disappoint.
I’m looking forward to watching Tae-shik take the endearingly grumpy yet harmless Gyeo-re under his wing. I’m curious about Tae-shik’s history with Gyeo-re’s father. Was the father a loan shark or enforcer of some kind? Tae-shik’s homeless friends were relieved that “someone” hadn’t visited Tae-shik in a while, and I’m guessing that could be Gyeo-re’s father.
Gyeo-re is in desperate need of some bonding, and I can’t wait for him to grumble his way into this little hospice family. He’s clearly a great fit for Team Genie, and I don’t think they’ll let him stay off to the side staring longingly at their family dinners for long.
- Premiere Watch: If You Wish Upon Me, A Model Family, Stock Struck
- Ji Chang-wook seeks healing in KBS’s If You Wish Upon Me
- Cast lineup finalized for healing drama If You Tell Me Your Wish
- Ji Chang-wook, Sooyoung, and Sung Dong-il make wishes come true in new promos
- News bites: August 6, 2022
- News bites: August 3, 2022
- News bites: July 20, 2022