Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"Hwarang" Episode 3 recap

Youth places limits on characters and defines many quarrels in "Hwarang". Youthfulness equates to weakness in Silla as the adults control the political landscape and pass their rivalries down to their children who can do little but act out.

Each of the flower boys and Aro feel the helplessness of their age. Moo-myeong (who now goes by Seon-woo) is alone in the world after losing his only friend and because of his status and age he can do nothing but act out irrationally. The king, called Ji-dwi for disguise, is still frustrated because he must remain in hiding. His mother controls everything because of his age and lack of power. We start to see him fight back after reaching a breaking point. Aro helps him to see his limitations, but also that they aren't a poor reflection on him. They just are and he decides he can do something about them, which makes a dang good hero.
Our other hero, Seon-woo, is too deep in his grief to be anything more than a catalyst for some very damaging change. He has quite far to grow to truly grow up. His inclusion in Aro's family will certainly draw out the best and worst in him. Thus far it has just created confusion, but such is the state of things after immediate change.

The other flower boys, Soo-ho, Ban-ryu, and the others, have very little development aside from the face that many of them are rivals because of their parents pro-queen, anti-queen, and neutral proclivities. The queen is desperate for them to protect the king. Sons of her enemies will make the best guards because the officials will have to seriously dial back their evil plan-making.
I am quite pleased with the upped pace of this episode. While "Hwarang" isn't a brilliant show, it is pure entertainment in its silliness, visual beauty, and the mixture of historical darkness.
Written by: Lisa Espinosa AKA Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'
"Hwarang" is directed by Yoon Seong-sik, written by Park Eun-yeong-I, and features Park Seo-joon, Ko Ah-ra, Hyung Sik, Seo Ye-ji, Minho, and Do Ji-han.

"Night Light" Episode 11 recap

The tone takes a turn for the somewhat mundane here as I-kyeong uses business acumen to further drive a rift between the various members of the Park family without their really having any idea what's going on. The tendency of characters to underestimate I-kyeong is one of the finer subtle plot points in "Night Light". One reason it's so easy is because I-kyeong doesn't really have any kind of decisive victory to claim credit for. That makes them think they can come out on top of the double cross later on.
It's one of the better examples of subtle sexism I've seen in media because really, I-kyeong being a woman is the only reason I can come up with for Moo-sam and Moo-il being so willfully blind. They would see a man as a more obvious threat. Indeed, Gun-woo has been sidelined pretty much entirely because Moo-sam and Moo-il have convinced themselves the younger man could take this opportunity to usurp them, in blatant disregard of all current characterization of the actual leads.
But aside from that characterization there is, as usual, not very much here. The ridiculously long-winded build-up to Se-jin's training makes the brevity of her role here especially puzzling. Considering how many times I-kyeong has "tested" Se-jin in the past, from Se-jin's perspective, the cliffhanger could easily just be another such test. This really makes a mess of the dramatic tension- by this point the viewer and the characters should be on the same page.
The real problem, though, is just the generally dry business transaction nature of the plot, with deals that devoid of context are completely unremarkable. At this point the story is so excessive with detail to financial minutae I'm beginning to wonder if writer Han Ji-hoon read a book about this stuff and is just determined to regurgitate every minor detail into "Night Light". It's hard to think of any other reason why this material is given such disproportionate focus.
Consider the conversation Tak has with Se-jin. It's actually fairly interesting in its own right, if somewhat gossipy, but Tak as a character is so underdeveloped we actually know surprisingly little about him. So the man's statements carry little dramatic weight although it certainly feels like they should. The romantic elements in "Night Light" in general suffer from the same weakness, even as the script implies they ought to be fairly central to the conflict.
Review by William Schwartz
"Night Light" is directed by Lee Jae-dong, written by Han Ji-hoon and features Lee Yo-won, Jin Goo, UEE, Choi Il-hwa, Choi Min and Sim I-yeong.
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"Solomon's Perjury" Episode 4 recap

Things get dangerous as news of the trial shakes every party involved. The court group are racing against time and the Jeong-guk foundation's scheming, which pushes them to put more pressure on Joo-ri and Woo-hyeok. After news of the trial spreads, a mysterious figure commits a crime and complicates the situation. Seo-yeon is faced with tough decisions and an increasing amount of uncontrollable participants.
I believe we have the source material and the drama's shorter length to thank for the tightly packed plot. The writer wastes no time with the proceedings and they use the more slow-paced moments for character development and the exploration of their subject matter. Facing a death and now another, a media circus and a trial is not an easy thing for anyone let alone for young minds. It would have been a waste if the series did not delve into the feelings and thoughts of the people involved.
Seo-yeon apologizing to Joo-ri's mom for her sufferingJi-hoon deciding to comfort Seo-yeon as the Sentinel
One person whose thoughts and feelings we know little about is Ji-hoon (Jang Dong-yoon) and this seems intentional. I love and fear his character. He shows kindness in profound ways, but whether that is pure or a part of his manipulative behavior to keep the trial going is still unknown. I find his playful argument with So-woo (Seo Yeong-joo-I) during the hospital scene very foreboding and So-woo's expressions toward him in the latest flashbacks are suspicious. We also do not know what kind of crimes his father may have committed that the boy knows of.
At times it feels as if Ji-hoon is trying to stage a trial in order to escape accusations. On the other hand, it makes no sense that he would encourage Seo-yeon (Kim Hyeon-soo) when the case was conveniently ruled as a suicide. I do feel uncomfortable with how much the group trusts him, however. Seo-yeon needs all the help she can get, but making trial plans in the same room as the person tasked with overturning the outcome you must work toward is dangerous and so is using school grounds.
Kyeong-moon telling the current principal to stop the trial using school regulationsWoo-hyeok witnessing his house burning down with his grandmother inside
Joo-ri (Sin Se-hwi) and Woo-hyeok (Baek Cheol-min) are a mystery as well. Woo-hyeok is clearly shaken by his grandmother's death, but also Seo-yeon's reaction to Joo-ri's mother. He could be doing this because he does not want to further endanger his family, because he is guilty or because he thinks he may be and sees the prosecutor as weak. If he and his friend were really drunk, his memories are unreliable and doubt is possible.
The people involved are piling up and So-woo's brother, Lee Tae-woo (Yeo Hoi-hyeon) seems to have proof that this was not a suicide. The envelope appears to have tickets or maybe something else proving So-woo was making plans. Tae-woo is a suspect for the arson, of course and a new variable to consider for the trial. I am highly anticipating next week's episodes.
"Solomon's Perjury" is directed by Kang Il-soo, written by Kim Ho-soo and features Kim Hyeon-soo, Jang Dong-yoon, Seo Ji-hoon, Seo Yeong-joo-I and Jo Jae-hyeon.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
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"Entourage" Episode 16 Final recap

The end of "Entourage" is here and it brings the convenience of an equus ex machina and a time jump. Yeong-bin has escaped to Busan without the group for some alone time while everyone back in Seoul is trying to handle the fallout and get the star and Ho-jin to make up. Eun-gap in particular becomes closer to the boys than ever and provides some valuable advice to Ho-jin.
As much as I have wished for some solid character development and some self awareness from Yeong-bin (Seo Kang-joon), I believe the creators made the right choice with this happy, convenience-filled conclusion. As I say in my previous piece, this feels like the start of maturity for everyone in the group, including Eun-gap (Jo Jin-woong). Someone like Yeong-bin would need a big shock for an instant realization and one final episode cannot handle such a big plot point.
Eun-gap giving Ho-jin some adviceYeong-bin and his group
On the other hand, it feels as if little has changed in terms of the characters themselves and their lives. I can see where the writers were going with their relationships. The conclusion is essentially all about a tight-knit group who realize friendship is more important than anything, but the drama has not explored these connections enough for the outcome to have any emotional impact. Sixteen episodes of a story going anywhere and characters who accomplish very little is not exactly riveting entertainment.
"Entourage" is a very confused work when I consider it in its whole. It went for style over substance, then it tried tackling industry workings and at the very end decided to focus on its characters. For a pre-produced work, such indecisiveness and muddled progress is surprising. I know editing can change a lot, we have seen proof of that many times before and with a couple of famous cases as well, but there is much more to the problems of this series than that.
Eun-gap drunk and joyous, hugging Yeong-bin and Ho-jinThe crew after a successful movie premiere
The question for my final, spoiler free review will be whether this series is worth watching, but what I am contemplating here is whether I would want to watch more. In all honesty, with the same writing crew the answer would be "definitely not". Even Eun-gap, the show's most developed character is not very rich, if taken out of the context of the drama. Perhaps if things were different and better, I would feel this investment.
I would love a story where Yeong-bin becomes a professional and where Ho-jin (Park Jeong-min-I) becomes a super manager. One where Joon (Lee Gwang-soo) seeks help for his issues and where Turtle (Lee Dong-hwi) finds himself. Where Eun-gap and Ok-ja's (Choi Myeong-gil) relationship is developed. I would love a good series with this cast, but "Entourage" is just not that series.
"Entourage" is directed by Jang Yeong-woo, written by Kwon So-ra and Seo Jae-won and features Jo Jin-woong, Seo Kang-joon, Lee Gwang-soo, Park Jeong-min-I and Lee Dong-hwi.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"Night Light" Episode 10 recap

Moo-sam (played by Lee Jae-yong-I) is the new acting chairman of the Park family's conglomerate, and it is with her political maneuvering to make this possible that I-kyeong has finally managed to advance major substantative change in the high level corporate power dynamics of "Night Light". Moo-il (played by Jeong Han-yong), the former chairman and Gun-woo's father, is down but not out. And it looks like I-kyeong is counting on it.
Moo-sam and Moo-il themselves are brothers, which is the way I-kyeong appears to be planning to tear the Park family's life work apart and replace it with...something. As usual the specifics of I-kyeong's plan are a bit of a mystery. But the direct consequences of her actions are undeniable. I-kyeong is sowing discontent and misery among all the people capable of opposing her, whittling down their strength to such a level that eventually ultimatums won't even be necessary. I-kyeong can just do what she wants.
And this legitimately bothers Se-jin. Once again I-kyeong's plan when it comes to Se-jin is unclear, especially considering how much time was built up "training" the younger woman. Surely it should not come as a surprise that the woman whose main stated talent is empathy would sympathize with Gun-woo's problems. While I-kyeong can push around the Park brothers, Se-jin is too essential to I-kyeong's own interests to be pushed to the side even temporarily.
To that end, we're dealing with a philosophical battle between I-kyeong and Se-jin. I-kyeong's thinking is fascinating in its own evil Buddhist way. Se-jin must eliminate all sense of emotional attachment in order to most effectively strike back. The problem with this is that Se-jin's sense of righteous grievance is much less than I-kyeong's, so it's more difficult to see why Se-jin should have such a large stake in what's happening. The good times she's had with I-kyeong so far are the main incentive.
And it is admittedly a fairly strong incentive. Even as Se-jin insists, not entirely convincingly, that I-kyeong is neither a monster or a villain, it's very difficult to interpret the powerful woman's actions in any other light. All we really have to go on is that we know it's physically possible to make I-kyeong smile. We see it this instead- and most significantly, I-kyeong's joy does not directly come as a result of her malicious politicking. That's about the main possible breath of hope Se-jin has to hold on to right now.
Review by William Schwartz
"Night Light" is directed by Lee Jae-dong, written by Han Ji-hoon and features Lee Yo-won, Jin Goo, UEE, Choi Il-hwa, Choi Min and Sim I-yeong.
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"Solomon's Perjury" Episode 2 recap

The plot thickens in a delightfully twisted way in episode two of "Solomon's Perjury" as we discover there is more to the witness than meets the eye. The press becomes involved and now the parents are distrusting the school and the police. A mysterious online figure named the Jeong-guk Watchman resurfaces in the school and Ji-hoon's role in all of this becomes more complicated.
I feel that the drama has been very good in leading viewers to certain conclusions. As I mentioned in my review for episode one, Lee Joo-ri (Sin Se-hwi) could have been lying about the incident due to personal reasons and it was the clues that the creators provided which made her suspicious nature easy to pick up on. I have to say, however, I did not expect to see such a tense and disturbed character in her. I am very pleased to see that the creators pay attention to several characters.
Cho-rong and Joo-ri as Joo-ri is being bullied by Woo-hyeokWoo-hyeok becomes the center of suspicion and gossip
I am not sure who killed So-woo (Seo Yeong-joo-I) and why, if anyone even did, but the possibility that Woo-hyeok (Baek Cheol-min) might be one of the least wicked characters by the end of all this makes the mystery and drama very appealing. There is clearly a lot of pain, manipulation and many broken minds among Jeong-guk high school's youth, faculty and parents, but it all works because we have such intriguing characters and relationships.
I love seeing Joon-yeong (Seo Ji-hoon) tail Seo-yeon (Kim Hyeon-soo) like a duckling and a trusting friend. Their mutual support and trust will help them through this tough situation, as the burden they must carry is catching up. In contrast, Joo-ri and Park  Cho-rong (Seo Sin-ae) have a dysfunctional and abusive relationship. The series also uses them for its social criticism, but also a ray of hope, such as the moment when Joo-ri's venomous comments are proven wrong by people who do care about the person she has been using.
Seo-yeon and Joon-yeong having a discussionJi-hoon's secret identity is revealed to us
Ji-hoon remains the most mysterious character here and now we have an added layer to the confusion. If the boy is the Jeong-guk Watchman, as evident by his phone when the post was made, what is his goal? What does the son of the most shady figure in the school aside from its biggest benefactor know which pushes him to become a fighter for justice? What urges him to defend Woo-hyeok in court?
There is so much to talk about in this series and my desired review length leaves a lot of it out. Every scene feels like it is building up to something big, the characters are deeply engaging and the show's production quality is great. "Solomon's Perjury" is shaping up to be a dark piece about the corruption we become a part of as we grow up and those who fight it.
"Solomon's Perjury" is directed by Kang Il-soo, written by Kim Ho-soo and features Kim Hyeon-soo, Jang Dong-yoon, Seo Ji-hoon, Seo Yeong-joo-I and Jo Jae-hyeon.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
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"The Legend of the Blue Sea" Episode 11 recap

The key to episode 11 of "The Legend of the Blue Sea" is listening. Joon-jae can hear Cheong's mermaid voice although she doesn't realize that he can, which leads to many insights on his part. He starts to really listen to what she speaks and is attentive to what she does in order to really be there for her. It can be excessive, but it does allow Lee Min-ho to be ridiculously adorable.

Listening also applies to Ma Dae-yeong, the murderer who also has a connection to the past. He is sensitive to his dreams of his past incarnation and the people in them who look remarkably like Joon-jae and Cheong. Where the communication ends is between Joon-jae and his brother Ji-hyeon. They talk and don't get anywhere. There is so much for the two to work out, so much conflict and resolution to be had, but the drama seems overly concerned with romantic aspects of the plot. While watching Lee Min-ho fawn over Jeon Ji-hyeon is delightful, less of it would make room for more pressing issues like Cheong's declining health, Ji-hyeon's mother's poisoning of his adoptive father, and the dangers that Dae-yeong presents.
What is strong about this episode in particular is that we seen Joon-jae actively changing himself, going out of his way not only to help Cheong, but Cheong's young friend Yoo-na. He slowly begins to straighten out his crooked ways. He gives of himself for the betterment of the lives of others. Albeit those people are the woman he loves and her friend, but it's a start. He pretends to be family for Yoo-na, creating relationships he hadn't known for a long time. This will definitely give him a taste for more of the warmth that family gives.

A black moon was mentioned only during the start of the episode and it indicated something ominous. What was strange was that the ominous feeling didn't persist throughout and only returned at the end. It manifested in Joon-jae's arrest, which will definitely muck up the romantic works and perhaps trigger more health problems for Cheong.
Another strange thing about the episode was that there were flashbacks to the Joseon days, but no real action happens. The Joseon storyline is swift and strong and its absence was keenly felt. Aside from that, I'm looking forward to getting into the nitty gritty of the conflict in the drama. I want to see what Dae-yeong plans to do with his visions and how Joon-jae will escape his handcuffs. I want to see how the mermaid's heart fares with the passage of time and if Joon-jae's father will survive slow poisoning. May these be revealed tomorrow!

Written by: Lisa Espinosa AKA Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'
"The Legend of the Blue Sea" is directed by Jin Hyeok, written by Park Ji-eun, and features Lee Min-ho, Jeon Ji-hyeon, Lee Hee-joon, and Sin Hye-seon.
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"Seven First Kisses" Episodes 1,2,3,4 summary

Soo-jin (played by Lee Cho-hee) works at the Lotte Duty Free store and laments having hit her twenty-fifth birthday without ever having received a first kiss. Then Choi Ji-woo pops up with a magical solution to Soo-jin's dilemma. This ends up involving the seven male models who represent the Lotte Duty Free Store- Lee Joon-ki, Park Hae-jin, and Ji Chang-wook feature in this set of episodes. Kai, Taecyeon, Lee Jong-suk, and Lee Min-ho will appear later on. For contractual reasons, no doubt.
...Yes, if you were wondering why seven of South Korea's most famous male stars are appearing in an apparently random web-drama, that's why. Advertising purposes. At minimum this is almost certainly why "Seven First Kisses" comes complete with both English and Chinese subtitles. And really, who could blame them? Why bother appearing in a generic commercial when you can instead just do an exaggerated self-parodying ten minute genre drama?
The stories in "Seven First Kisses" are highly condensed and highly goofy. Director Jeong Jeong-hwa compresses the plotlines of entire dramas into small chunks that perfectly encapsulate the appeal of Korean cultural brand products worldwide. You see, there is a handsome or even pretty man. He is very manly and assertive, yet also kind and gentle, who pursues you with single-minded determination no matter what manner of preposterous obstacle lies in his way.
Lee Joon-ki does not deal with very many obstacles, though, which is fine by me since his dramas usually have horrific backstories. He's just rich, but with that emotional void in his heart that comes from never talking to his childhood crush. Park Hae-jin plays closer to type as a stiff man with little to no emotional variance who is nonetheless attractive because, uh, he takes everything so seriously I guess. Ji Chang-wook, as expected, does spy thriller action romance.
But more than any of them I like Lee Cho-hee as a leading lady. She's just so...earnest. Soo-jin can barely contain her fangirlish glee over the prospect of all these handsome men paying so much explicit attention to her. She's passive mainly out of the fear that something will go horribly wrong in the case of explicit forward movement. This is true even when (as is the case in the Ji Chang-wook segment) Soo-jin finds that going out on the offensive can be a lot of fun. "Seven First Kisses" may be pure wish fulfillment. In the end though, aren't all dramas, really?
Review by William Schwartz
"Seven First Kisses" is directed by Jeong Jeong-hwa and features Lee Joon-ki, Park Hae-jin, Ji Chang-wook, Kai, Taecyeon, Lee Jong-suk, Lee Min-ho, Choi Ji-woo and Lee Cho-hee.
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"Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim" Episode 14 recap

Love is in the air in episode fourteen of "Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim", which is a far better thing to have airborne than MERS. The crisis is resolved and Seo-jeong has to make some decisions on her feelings. In-beom's bluff is called and Teacher Kim gives the young man some honest advice. The episode brings back familiar faces, but it also adds a new mysterious figure and probable enemy of Doldam and Teacher Kim.
Not much has changed since I expressed my opinion on the romance between Seo-jeong (Seo Hyeon-jin) and Dong-joo (Yoo Yeon-seok). His neglect of her trauma for his personal pleasure continues, but it is fortunate that the writer acknowledges the trauma's continued existence. Seo-jeong's PTSD arc was too rushed and I would love to see it return and hopefully end with her truly overcoming her issues. It would also be a chance for Dong-joo to mature and learn how to care for her needs.
Seo-jeong attempting to reject Dong-joo's hugIn-beom being chastized by Teacher Kim
Aside from the romance, the episode addresses In-beom's (Yang Se-jong) lying and I am glad to see Teacher Kim (Han Seok-Kyu) stay within character by seeing through that lie. I still feel that the writer has made a huge mistake with In-beom's treatment of Seo-jeong, however, which no amount of remorse can fix. The character and the deserved sympathy for him could realistically be brought back if he lied about experience, but sending someone to their death to please daddy is beyond redeemable for an adult.
Mistakes like these reveal the writer's second weakness aside from rushing through their apparent inability to develop their compelling character stories. The second issue I feel Kang Eun-kyeong's writing has here is the decisions made for the sake of titillating drama, which end up throwing the potential of the subplots and her characters under the bus. It is a common Dramaland problem, especially for shows with higher ratings and therefore increasingly greedy interests behind them, but it is always sad to see.
Yeon-hwa has returned to DoldamTeacher Kim noticing something in Chairman Sin's files
On to happier topics, Yeon-hwa (Seo Eun-su) has made her triumphant return and I am happy enough to not mind the clumsy writing which brings her back. I look forward to her work as a doctor and, more importantly, her ethics. I also wonder if the artist will be a recurring character. Last, but not least, there is a new boss in town and Kim Hye-eun's character seems like a means of return to hospital politics.
This is quite a shame, as life and death situations are dramatic enough without the need for stereotypical villains. Seeing them rub their hands in glee as they stop the heroes from doing their job is not engaging, it is just annoying and it cheapens the story. Adding to this Chairman's Sin's (Joo Hyeon) secret and we have quite the chaos approaching. May the creators handle it well.
"Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim" is directed by Yoo In-sik, written by Kang Eun-kyeong and features Han Seok-Kyu, Yoo Yeon-seok, Seo Hyeon-jin and Kim Hong-pa.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
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"Hwarang" Episode 2 recap

The second episode of "Hwarang" was much slower than the first with the action circling around the motivation for Moo-myeong's revenge driving the plot.
Moo-myeong spends most of the episode looking very handsome with even better hair and very, very distraught over the lost of his friend, the cameo from Lee Kwang-soo. Lee's characters was also the son of Doctor Ahn (Choi Won-yeong), Aro's father so that attaches the tragedy of his death to Moo-myeong, Doctor Ahn, and Aro. Much of the beginning was spent in direct mourning for the death and the recovery of Moo-myeong from his stab wounds.
While the recovery was in the works, Queen Ji-so makes plans with Wi Hwa-gong to expose their plan to gather Hwarang, the pretty, moral, and arts educated young men that will protect the young king. These Hwarang are historically based pretty boys. Yes, Korea has a long, long history of Flower boys. Please enjoy the visual yummies! In any case, Aro is roped into helping search for flower boys which gives us a long sequence of her stalking all the pretty in the land including, Minho, V, and Do Ji-han. Luckily for the story, these characters have an established rivalry that will make them more than just pretty faces - hopefully.

Also part of the Hwarang creation are the officials who use the idea to try and manipulate the king out of hiding and to test Queen Ji-so's resolve about her seat of power and her protection of her son. Of course, she's very power-hungry and her resolve is steely.
There are two major points of contention in the episode between Moo-myeong and the king, known as Sam-maek-jong, because the king's man is who injured Moo-myeong and killed his friend. Moo-myeong believes that the king did it himself and is after him for revenge. Also, both men also have a standing interest in the lovely, sprightly Aro. Both Park Seo-joon and Hyung Sik are fine actors and will hopefully bring depth to the two pretty characters.

There will also be a lot of "fighting the system" for the rights of the peasant, spearheaded by Moo-myeong and I hope this concept doesn't get thrown by the wayside in favor of showing off fight scenes and good looks.

Next week will tell if this show will gain some steam. Until then, enjoy the pretty.
Written by: Lisa Espinosa AKA Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'
"Hwarang" is directed by Yoon Seong-sik, written by Park Eun-yeong-I, and features Park Seo-joon, Ko Ah-ra, Hyung Sik, Seo Ye-ji, Minho, and Do Ji-han.
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"Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo" Episode 11 recap

Bok-joo's rebound ends up going a lot more cheerfully than I was expecting. Aside from the whole dream of being a champion weightlifter, Bok-joo has plenty of other ambitions in life, too. She's just never had the time for them, and mer mood perks up considerably upon having gotten the opportunity to try something new. Bok-joo's athletic ability is no less diminished either, since one such new interest involves putting her weightlifting skills to good practical use.
But now everyone else misses Bok-joo. It doesn't help that Coach Seong-eun also has to take a leave of absence at the same time, albeit for radically different reasons. Still, there is definite value to rest and recovery even when it is not strictly speaking necessary. Everyone could use a break from routine every once in awhile. Consider how Si-ho appears to be slowly teetering on the edge of total collapse by being too single-minded in pursuit of gymnastic excellence.
Not that we really get that much exposition when it comes to subplots. All three secondary romantic subplots get a shout-out, but limited as these moments are to a scene or two per couple, there's not too much to focus on. Instead, it's just Bok-joo making a go of having a life outside of weightlifting as her friends try to ineffectaully drag the star player back in. It's not a matter of conscious effort so much as generic lonesomeness in the wake of her absence.
This is most pronounced with Joon-hyeong, who lacks any kind of plot of his own at this point and is instead just pining after Bok-joo. Which is a lot less romantic than it sounds because the guy is really brusque and mean about it. In context it doesn't even seem like he likes her that much. It's more, he wants her to come back, ergo, he must want to date her. Or maybe that's just a pretext to try and make her come back it's kind of unclear.
The point is, everyone in "Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo" makes really good faces. They're so exaggerated and silly. This well serves the argument being made in most given circumstances, which boils down to "I want this thing give it to me now!" But in terms of comedic timing, they're really just genuinely funny. There's a gentle, humorous reminder there about how being a loudmouth can, at times, be the only real way to try and solve a problem.
Review by William Schwartz
"Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo" is directed by Oh Hyeon-jong, written by Kim Soo-jin-III and Yang Hee-seong, and features Lee Seong-kyeong, Nam Joo-hyeok, Kyeong Soo-jin, Lee Jae-yoon-I, Lee Joo-yeong-II and Jo Hye-jeong.
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"Woman with a Suitcase" Episode 8 recap

Episode 8 of "Woman with a Suitcase" bravely tackled a very difficult subject: homosexuality. It treated the character in the episode with respect and touched upon the issue in an honest way. Of course, as a drama on a public station it couldn't challenge societal precepts, but I'm glad that the social commentary was made.

The backdrop for the episode was the case of the week, which focused on a murder revolving around the homosexual relationship of a prominent citizen. It presents the idea of two kinds of prison that this Korean man in Korean society faces for loving a certain way: a social prison of constant judgement or a real prison where he will be incarcerated for a murder he didn't commit in order to hide his sexual identity. The show treats the subject with the respect it deserves, having the characters show surprise upon discovery, but working for the best resolution for the man. They treat him with dignity and clear him of false murder charges so that he can live his life. If this show was not regulated, perhaps we would be able to see a fight against the horrendous treatment of the LGBTQ community and the social prisons that they are forced into. But that is another fight for another show.
As for the romances, they're developing at a steady pace. We've hit the midpoint of the drama and romance is still lukewarm. Bok-geo flirts like a 13-year-old boy, hiding his feelings while teasing Geum-joo. Seok-woo confesses, but is deflected by a nervous Geum-joo. As always, the upright man is cast aside in favor of the "bad boy". While this is generally the case, the fact that it plays out yet again in this drama is infuriating. It is clear which man treats her well and which doesn't and yet the attraction lies with the one who doesn't. I want a show that portrays a woman being treated well and being with that man. There is plenty of drama to be had even in such a relationship.

Hye-joo has sunk into the quagmire that is Oh Sung, a company basically formed to protect the power and money of a prominent family and its marriage and business ties. The law firm portion of the company only seeks to protect Oh Sung and will do wrong in order to achieve that goal. Hye-joo wants to further her career, and her conscience nags at her for being involved, but her hunger for success keeps her on her dark path. That path keeps her separated from her sister who is constantly trying to make amends between them, but Hye-joo has been too scarred by life and doesn't have the constitution to pick herself back up. Hers is most definitely a path into hell and she will struggle to find redemption, perhaps with the help of Geum-joo.
I look forward to the next week's case bringing up another tough subject and perhaps a little more excitement on the romantic front. Hopefully Bok-geo will stop flirting like a child and be the man he is.
Written by: Lisa Espinosa AKA Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'
"Woman with a Suitcase" is directed by Kang Dae-seon and Lee Jae-jin-II, written by Kwon Eum-mi, and starring Choi Ji-woo, Joo Jin-mo, Jeon Hye-bin, and Lee Joon.

"The Man In My House" Episode 1 recap

Na-ri (played by Soo-ae) is a senior flight attendant for whom life appears to be decent. Sure there's always the occasional jerk on the plane who needs to be dealt with, but Na-ri is a real trooper for her co-workers, even the somewhat ethically dubious Yeo-joo (played by Jo Bo-ah). Na-ri's boyfriend Dong-jin (played by Kim Ji-hoon-I) is clearly committed to her, and Na-ri has a good relationship with her family. Until the timeskip anyway.
As of yet "The Man In My House" hasn't reached the premise yet, so here the production team focuses on setting the tone- light comedy. Na-ri is the kind of woman who rolls with the punches and doesn't get too hung up about the disappointments in life. It's especially telling how one angry conversation with Dong-jin ultimately leads Na-ri far more cranky than she is actually upset. Na-ri's coping mechanism in general is to get mad at other people- not herself.
This goes a long way to making her genuinely sympathetic. The evolving circumstances of Na-ri's life could easily make for melodrama given a different use of tone. Director Kim Jeong-min-III does good work maintaining a breezy atmosphere. The music selection is great, and really sells the idea of Na-ri being a modern woman in the modern world with modern problems, who interprets superficially flirty situations in a sinister light, which oddly enough makes those minor humiliations all the more bearable.
So far Yeo-joo and Dong-jin are mere archetypes by comparison. Both of them make fairly stupid mistakes with Na-ri, and curiously enough, both of them are actually frightened of Na-ri to a certain extent. This is not because Na-ri is an especially scary woman, but rather owes to Na-ri's sense of stage presence. Being a senior flight attendant has given Na-ri the power to control a room, even if she still has a sentimental side.
The evolving situation in "The Man In My House" indicates that Na-ri's challenge going forward will be dealing with men who are not intimidated by her. This is a welcome reversal of the usual trope of the man being impressed by a feisty woman. Here it's the men who are feisty, because they're wandering on to Na-ri's turf and not explaining themselves as they should. While "The Man In My House" is, to date, not an exceptionally complicated narrative, it is fairly done and intrigues me enough to want to see where the story's going.
Review by William Schwartz
"The Man In My House" isdirected by Kim Jeong-min-III, written by Kim Eun-jeong and features Soo-ae, Kim Yeong-kwang, Lee Soo-hyeok, Jo Bo-ah, Kim Ji-hoon-I and Kim Mi-Sook.
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"Drinking Alone" Episode 15 recap

At long last "Drinking Alone" has hit the point of serious self-reflection on the part of its characters- although for me this is too little too late. The grand output of Jeong-seok and Ha-na's relationship consits of a couple of decent dates at the tail end of Jeong-seok acting like a jerk. The way he keeps talking about "quality" is, I think, supposed to be cute but all it ever does is remind me how generally mean-spirited the man is.
For a sense of perspective, I found Jin-i and Jin-woong's romance to be more convincing simply because we've had a much better look at what they do in casual moments. Jin-i and Jin-woong have a good professional rapport and mutual respect. They don't necessarily like each other, and their interactions through the episode involve some rather...not positive reactions. But hey, they've been through bad situations before (mostly involving Jeong-seok) so they'll get through this too.
Elsewhere Chae-yeon manages to warm my heart with her cold robotic demeanor by finally providing an actual argument why Myeong is being mopey and dumb. This is something I would have really liked to see sooner, because last cliffhanger, all I could think was that Myeong's appraisal of Jeong-seok's character is mostly character. The man is, in fact, a fink, and we've never really seen him act in a genuinely noble way to any kind of ambiguous situation.
The jokes are still funny, I guess. I liked the extended flashback to that one really great time the three idiot students had way back when. It's both funny and also kind of sad that Gi-beom and Dong-yeong have such an overall positive opinion of a social encounter that never actually ended up going anywhere. It's emblematic of how incredibly clueless they are of social cues in general. Which as always tends to put a damper on any interpretation that makes these guys seem intelligent and right-minded. But even so. Jokes are something.
They're just not that much. Even the food porn has gotten a tad lazy. No exposition or tying into the larger themes at all. We just see someone..."Drinking Alone", and that's apparently all the commentary we need anymore. "Drinking Alone" irritates me the most in that it never seems to actually be making any kind of statement about anything, however vague. It's just about characters who struggle to make the most minor superficial changes and for me, that makes the overall drama very static.
Review by William Schwartz
"Drinking Alone" is directed by Choi Gyoo-sik and Jeong Hyeong-geon, written by Baek Seon-woo, Choi Bo-rim and Myeong Soo-hyeon, and features Ha Seok-jin, Hwang Woo-seul-hye, Park Ha-seon, Min Jin-woong, Kim Won-hae, Gong Myeong and Key.
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"Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" Episode 17 recap

It's the end for King Jeongjong, as the former Prince Yo melts down over...his mom I guess? I'm really not being sarcastic when I discuss how the elder brother has just straight up stolen his younger brother's character arc. It's kind of hard to feel sorry for King Jeongjong, though, when up until now he's just done explicitly evil stuff in pursuit of the throne and it's only now all of a sudden that the guy's starting to question why this was such a big priority.
I have a similar difficult time understanding Empress Yoon's character. Her hatred of Prince So at this point simply doesn't make any sense. Empress Yoon doesn't even make any kind of apparent effort to negotiate for actual political powers, the woman just decides that she hates her son and that's all the motivation she needs. How can we be so far along in this drama with so little idea of what the characters' actual goals are?
Even Soo falls in to this trap. Her relevance here has nothing to do with anything Soo has done up to this point, but rather simply her being well-positioned near King Jeongjong for the sake of listening to his crazy rants. Soo's scenes could be replaced by any random courtly lady and they would make about as much sense. Prince So's undying love to Soo comes off as inexplicable. The montages involving the newly crowned King Gwangjong are just plain silly.
Meanwhile, poor Prince Wook had his own special role in the royal intrigues and then the whole succession crisis happens without him. Faint praise though this may be, I suppose this succession crisis does make slightly more logical sense than the last one, since Prince So was at least in good standing with the previous King. Although I still can't make any sense of people showing up at the palace in full military dress and claiming there was a peaceful transition.
There are so many basic logical problems in "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo", though, that I could just go on and on about them indefinitely while always coming back to the same point. "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" is not a good drama. It's weirdly rushed. Everything just happens too fast. And yet at the same time it feels like we're only just now getting to what seems like it should be the most important part- how Prince So will rule as King Gwangjong with Soo's influence.
Review by William Schwartz
"Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" is directed by Kim Kyoo-tae, written by Jo Yoon-yeong and features Lee Joon-ki, IU, Kang Ha-neul, Hong Jong-hyeon, Nam Joo-hyeok, Baekhyun and Ji Soo.

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"The K2" Episode 10 recap

Hope is often a punishing concept in Dramaland. The appearance of Seong-won as a possible antagonistic force gave me hope in light of a passive and lacking in focus Gwam-soo. Seong-won has sadly proven but an instigator of temporary drama. The series is at a point where it struggles to find a lifeline, be it in the form of forced romance and angst, unnecessarily extended scenes and dead-end conflicts.
First things first, let us talk romance here. The writing cannot seem to decide between innocent princess Ahn-na (Yoona), who needs blanket assistance and "Yong Pal"-like vengeful Ahn-na who must be turning wicked, because she now uses make up; the number one sign of evil in Dramaland. Her relationship with Yoo-jin (Song Yoon-ah) and their past had potential, but with Ahn-na turned into a political hot potato isolated in her romantic subplot with Je-ha (Ji Chang-wook), I no longer have hope to see it realized.
Ahn-na and Je-ha under a blanketYoo-jin worrying about Je-ha's safety
Yoo-jin's story and character are not doing much better. When she was rescued by Je-ha, we were led to believe that she had a deep reason for faltering and we were thus presented with a mystery to look forward to. Now the time has come for her to choose between Je-ha and political success, but without proper back story and development, she simply comes off as a sentimental fool. Someone whose "womanly feelings" over a rescue by a young hottie overthrow her ambition.
This is unfortunate, because one good thing about Jang Hyeok-rin's works has been the interesting and focused on women's characters. It feels as if the writer has shot himself in the foot with "The K2", because the nuanced and flawed woman is his villainess. She can therefore not be as central as the heroine. This is also love-hungry Dramaland, so said heroine is being infantilized for romance, leaving both women struggling in the constraints of the types of roles they inhabit.
Chief Kim asking for Je-ha's murderJe-ha asking for Chief Kim's life
As for Yoo-jin's aforementioned nature as a villain, Chief Kim (Shin Dong-mi) might now be adding an extra pebble in the pile of her mistress' innocence regarding Hye-rin's (Son Tae-yeong) death. If Kim can suddenly turn T-1000 on Je-ha for his disobedience and in turn show disobedience herself to achieve it, then Hye-rin's death could be her handiwork as well. I just wish this mystery was not lost in a clumsily stitched together plot.
"The K2" can be summarized as just a few scenes in each episode. Rather than filling the empty space with well paced drama, it is now fumbling about and juggling many things it cannot handle, let alone develop. With six episodes left, all I can do is congratulate the cast and crew for their hard work and rejoice that their and our struggle will end soon.
"The K2" is directed by Kwak Jeong-hwan, written by Jang Hyeok-rin and features Ji Chang-wook, Song Yoon-ah, Yoona and Jo Seong-ha.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'