Saturday, May 28, 2016

"Mirror of the Witch" Episode 6 recap

Soon-deuk-i (played by Dohee) is, for this episode anyway, the main character of "Mirror of the Witch". She's a schemer who, in between schemes, is friend to gisaeng Man-weol (played by Lee Cho-hee), who is being stymied in her romantic efforts by a disfigured face. You might be wondering what any of this has to do with Jun's revenge plan, Yeon-hee's seclusion, Hong-joo's dark magic, or King Seonjo's physical malady. There are relating plot threads. Unfortunately they aren't very convincing ones.
Mostly this is because the plot isn't actually going anywhere. You could have skipped the first five episodes of "Mirror of the Witch", started with this one, and you would know just as much about what's happening as I do. Most of the backstory simply doesn't even matter. Jun acts less like a man determined to avenge the death of his mother and more like an undercover police officer. Heo-ok, too, mostly just comes off as a corrupt aristocrat with disproportionate political power.
...And that's another problem. Why is there no connection between the villains? Back when "Mirror of the Witch" started off Hong-joo was evil because she was willing to do evil things for political power. Last episode Hong-joo gave up that power in the name of self-preservation. Which leads into another problem. While messing around with souls, resurrection and dark mist is obviously bad, Hong-joo at this point at this point is mainly engaged in preemptive self-defense.
While it's bad enough that "Mirror of the Witch" has plot holes, the fact that they could very easily be fixed is what's really irritating. It's not clear to me why Hong-joo needed to have a falling out with Queen Sim at all. An actual conspiracy between Hong-joo and the upper echelons of society would have made for a much more convincing and intimidating villain than just having Jun fall victim to bad comic book logic.
I mean really, is it so much to ask that character destiny have some relationship to foreseeable consequences? When Jun finally meets Yeon-hee again, it's because he rather stupidly and comically gets smacked in the head by a tree branch in a scene more befitting of vaudeville than serious drama. The production team really needs to pick a tone and just stick with it. In its best moments "Mirror of the Witch" can be a lot of fun, but the low end is simply embarrassing to watch.
Review by William Schwartz
"Mirror of the Witch" is directed by Jo Hyeon-tak, written by Yang Hyeok-moon and features Yoon Si-yoon, Kim Sae-ron, Lee Seong-jae, Yeom Jeong-ah, Kwak Si-yang and Jang Hee-jin.
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Friday, May 27, 2016

"Mirror of the Witch" Episode 5 recap

The prologue portion of "Mirror of the Witch" ends in expectedly gruesome fashion. Yes, that's right- apparently the first four and a half episodes were just prologue. I don't think I've ever seen a drama try so hard to undercut its own story before. At the moment it's not terribly clear why we had to spend so much time dealing with character backstory when five years later the leads are all standard archetypes.
To recap- Jun nurses a secret grudge of revenge against elder brother Heo-ok, Yeon-hee is a fully-powered witch who's still trying to decide whether her powers are to be used for good or ill. And then there's King Seonjo (played by Lee Ji-hoon-I), who suffers from horrific physical maladies that in turn are starting to affect his mental condition. Ironically, of the three King Seonjo actually feels like the most important character, because he's the only one dealing with a problem that really needs to be solved right away.
That's my main issue with "Mirror of the Witch" right now. It's making me impatient. Not in the good "what's gonna happen next what's gonna happen next" sense that characterized earlier episodes, but in the bad "it's episode five and we're still somehow not anywhere near the main plot" sense. To give a sense of how bad the pacing is, the preview this episode contains scenes from last episode's preview. And once again, Jun and Yeon-hee manage not to have a conversation even though they're the ostensible lead characters.
I'm possibly being a little harsh. Obviously "Mirror of the Witch" can't run in place forever but the holdup really is frustrating. Take the scene where Jun is reintroduced. It's more typical sneaky rogue stuff, except that since this character trait has already been established, what we're left with is a mostly irrelevant romp where Jun messes around with a couple of temporary villain and ends with a reminder of the generally grim fairy tale world the characters live in.
This is all perfectly in step with the worldbuilding introduced thus far, but at some point a fantasy drama needs more than just worldbuilding to make an impact. Writer Yang Hyeok-moon even manages to lose points on that front because so many of Yeon-hee's scenes manage to invoke Frozen for no particularly good reason. Even so, Kim Sae-ron remains compelling, and her main post-timeskip scene has some legitimately good laughs, so I'm not counting "Mirror of the Witch" out just yet.
Review by William Schwartz
"Mirror of the Witch" is directed by Jo Hyeon-tak, written by Yang Hyeok-moon and features Yoon Si-yoon, Kim Sae-ron, Lee Seong-jae, Yeom Jeong-ah, Kwak Si-yang and Jang Hee-jin.
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"Master - God of Noodles" Episode 10 recap

We have now hit the midpoint in "Master - God of Noodles" and all of our players are in place, fully ready and motivated to close in on Gil-do and destroy him. Episode ten surprises me in some very pleasant ways, pleasant surprises being a rarity for me in drama. Myeong, Yeo-gyeong and Tae-ha face their problems head on, Congressman So's connection runs much deeper and important new information surfaces for us and the characters.
Dramas are quite liberal with their repetition. We know a character with important information will probably meet a truck of doom before delivering it. A lot of Korean series would end in four episodes if characters simply communicated and used their wits more. It is plot stretching at its nastiest. I have to admit, I did not give this series enough credit. Seeing Myeong (Cheon Jeong-myeong) and Tae-ha (Lee Sang-yeob) speak so honestly and bond more, rather than drift apart is a delight.
Tae-ha and MyeongYeo-gyeong and Tae-ha
I fully expected one missed meeting and one awkward reunion to ruin their friendship, because misunderstandings to sell melodrama happen so often. Yet "Master - God of Noodles" reminds us this is not how true bonds work. The same happens with Tae-ha and Yeo-gyeong (Jeong Yoo-mi). They both know their parents' connection, yet it does not affect their love for and faith in each other in the slightest. They feel bad, of course, but they understand this was out of their control.
Speaking of control, I am very intrigued by Congressman So (Kim Byeong-gi). I found it strange that he was so angry at Gil-do (Jo Jae-hyeon) back in the day and it seems he is fully aware of who Gil-do is. I am used to characters disappearing in dramas whenever plans change, so I did not think much of it when Hyeon-jeong (Son Yeo-eun) stopped showing up. Seeing her return as So's spy adds another layer to his considerable involvement.
Hyeon-jeong and Congressman SoDo-kkoo, Tae-ha and Da-hae
Going by his hate for Gil-do, it is safe to assume the demise of Da-hae's (Gong Seung-yeon) mother could very well have been his doing, accidental or not. Anything goes at this point. For someone who lacks trust in anyone, Gil-do's fatal flaw is that he does act based on their guidance and information. Tae-ha's and Da-hae's reunion was sweet, but to Gil-do it is just another deadly connection. A bond they will fight him over.
It is a spy-filled episode and now we have Myeong's informant as well. I like that he did not mention her when listing Mi-ja's (Seo I-sook) possible insiders. The story feels well-planned due to such details. With him discovering Da-hae's identity just as she finds Gil-do's room, next week is bound to be a pretty intense one. Bring on the mayhem.
"Master - God of Noodles" is directed by Kim Jong-yeon and Lim Se-joon, written by Chae Seung-dae and features Cheon Jeong-myeong, Jo Jae-hyeon, Jeong Yoo-mi and Lee Sang-yeob.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
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Thursday, May 26, 2016

"Lucky Romance" recorded 8.7%

As the viewership rating of MBC's new Wednesday/Thursday drama, "Lucky Romance" has dropped, the competition among groundwave TV dramas has turned more intense.
According to the viewership rating survey on May 26 by Nielsen Korea, "Lucky Romance" aired on May 26 recorded 8.7% in nationwide daily viewership rating.
This number is 1.6% down compared to 10.3% of its previous episode. Although the number has dropped, "Lucky Romance" managed to keep its first place.
The difference between "Lucky Romance" and SBS "Entertainers" is only 0.1%. "Entertainers" went up by 1.1% to record 8.6% this day. Even the drama ranked lowest during the same airtime, "Master - God of Noodles" also recorded 8.0%. Based on these numbers, it is likely that the ranks can be overturned any time.
While "Lucky Romance" has been anticipated to lead the Wed-Thu dramas recording the two digit number with the first episode, the viewership competition is becoming more interesting as it all of sudden is stalling.
Source : star.mt.co.kr/view/st...
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"Entertainers" Episode 12 recap

The romance of "Entertainers" has finally kicked up a notch and sparked a few real flames. Seok-ho and Green have a few wonderful moments together. Yeon-soo's life is cracked open for us to peer at and understand that he really is as sweet as he seems to be. The characters are what make "Entertainers" worth the watch. The plot leaves something left to be desired.

Rather than layering story elements and plot threads, the drama has laid out a few central conflicts and peeled away layers of it. This leaves little to be intertwined and twisted into juicy conflict. The villains are still one dimensional. Yoon-seo as Ji-yeong is dull and Joo-han is only saved by Heo Joon-seok's spot on acting. The CEO of KTOP is a waste of a character for the talented Jeon No-min. Seok-ho was asked if he was ready to battle the CEO and I can't help but think, "Hasn't he already been doing that?" The show keeps trying to amp up to this great battle between the CEO and Seok-ho, but failing. The band members and their Mango family are the bread and butter of the show.
This episode featured a peek into Yeon-soo's past. Chan-hee's mother and his first love showed up to explain that she was scared and left them, and then that she would leave them again to get married. Kindly Yeon-soo understands, but that doesn't mean that he is any less heartbroken. I wanted more conflict out of this encounter as well. I think I say that every review. This show lacks major conflict. What I did appreciate about the encounter with Chan-hee's mother is that it allowed both Chan-hee and Yeon-soo to cry over the loss. It also allowed Min-joo to potentially step into the cozy family unit of two. It also forces her to open up as a character since she, too, has been rather one dimensional. her thoughts and emotions are always opaque.
The romance between Seok-ho and Green finally blossomed on screen. Ji Seong and Hyeri just weren't jiving romantically before this. Now that the characters themselves are more openly affectionate, the two are bonding and it's easier to get behind the relationship. Ha-neul's denial of the blooming couple before him is starting to be troublesome as he decides to push his feelings on her. I'm not a fan of this aspect of K-drama. The only thing left to do is wait to see how they both respond to the imminent rejection.
Written by: Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'
"Entertainers" is directed by Hong Seong-chang and Lee Gwang-yeong, written by Yoo Yeong-ah, and features Ji Seong, Hyeri, Kang Min-hyuk, Chae Jeong-an, Jeon No-min, and Jeong Man-sik.

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"Lucky Romance" Episode 2 recap

Now that the premise has been firmly established, it's easier to get a grip on Bonnie's character. She's very observant when it comes to spiritual matters- note the pantheon of holy images from radically different faiths. Yet when it comes to anything else in life Bonnie is aggressively unobservant to the point of being totally oblivious. Take pro tennis player Geon-wook (played by Lee Soo-hyeok). Most women would at least be a little curious as to why Lee Soo-hyeok is making faces at them but Bonnie is always in such a hurry to do nothing.
Bonnie's vocational problems are an even better example. It becomes clear this episode that Bonnie is an exceptionally skilled computer programmer who could probably easily get a professional position if she would only stand still long enough for a potential employer to talk to her. While Bonnie is overflowing with energy, she directs it so incredibly inefficiently that it's little wonder the poor woman has to spend so much time struggling with menial work and consulting astrological charts.
And now, on top of all her other problems, Bonnie must have sex with a virgin born in the Year of the Tiger (1974, 1986, 1998). This is a very bizarre and random requirement. Although really, can any of us seriously claim that our standards are any less arbitrary? It's almost a kind of feminist commentary, how for all her more serious problems Bonnie also has to find a man to have sex with because patriarchy the shaman told her to.
Then again, the script would also be a fair way to put it. The plot in "Lucky Romance" has a very generic feel, occasional strange dramatic flourish notwithstanding. Which I suppose isn't really a bad thing. It's much harder for a straightforward plot to leave the rails and go somewhere idiotic. To date most of the more absurd plot movements are a direct consequence of Bonnie's eccentric personality, so it's all basic action-reaction with mostly logical consequences.
That much does tend to overshadow the other characters though. Soo-ho's main distinguishing personality traits this time are notable mainly in the sense they resemble Bonnie's- both get overnight workaholic montages. I'd like to see comparisons drawn from other directions- like Soo-ho's employee and Bonnie's friend Dal-nim (played by Lee Cho-hee). She's the only character who really knows both of them, which has all sorts of potential for insight. Also I love her eyewear. That's my virgin tiger- a real life woman who wears those huge glasses.
Review by William Schwartz
"Lucky Romance" is directed by Kim Kyeong-hee-II, written by Choi Yoon-gyo and features Hwang Jeong-eum, Ryu Jun-yeol, Lee Cheong-ah and Lee Soo-hyeok.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Lucky Romance" episode 1 recorded 10.3%

"Lucky Romance" made a great start by taking the first place in viewership rating among Wednesday & Thursday dramas during the same airtime.
According to the viewership rating survey on May 26 by Nielsen Korea, "Lucky Romance" episode one aired on May 25 recorded 10.3% nationwide.
This number is 0.4% up compared to 9.9% of "Goodbye Mr. Black" which wrapped up on May 19. It is also the highest number among all the groundwave TV dramas aired during the same airtime.
SBS "Entertainers" recorded 7.5% and KBS 2TV "Master - God of Noodles" scored 6.8%.
"Lucky Romance" episode one aired on this day depicted the accidental encounters by the two leading characters, Bonnie Sim (Hwang Jeong-eum) and Je Soo-ho (Ryu Jun-yeol). The two repeatedly came across each other at several different places at a casino, a park, a performance venue and randomly on a street.
Source : star.mt.co.kr/view/st...
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"Master - God of Noodles" Episode 9 recap

If your head is not already spinning from all the character connections and intricate plot, prepare to hold it in place, because episode nine of "Master - God of Noodles" is mercilessly packed. Gil-do's true nature and weaknesses are slowly being discovered by his enemies and Congressman So's connection to the story gets a big boost. Our makeshift family is threatened by misunderstandings as Tae-ha gets closer to the man we least want him to.
My worry over Gil-do's (Jo Jae-hyeon) connection to Da-hae (Gong Seung-yeon) being used as a possible excuse for redeption persists, but it is wise of the drama to remind us what he is truly like. Gil-do's secret room is an extension of himself. It hides in plain sight and keeps his crimes inside. Gil-do adapts and manipulates without mercy. His talk of honor to Seong-rok (Kim Joo-wan) is replaced by a more honest one to his wife. Do not touch my things or you will pay.
Gil-doKang-sook and Dae-cheon
This occasional honesty and his overly confident moves will only speed up the betrayal against him. Kang-sook (Lee Il-hwa) knows the truth, Myeong (Cheon Jeong-myeong) is creeping into his life, Mi-ja (Seo I-sook) might find out about Da-hae soon and Congressman So (Kim Byeong-gi) will be back on his throat soon. He knows Yeo-gyeong's (Jeong Yoo-mi) parents, so he is clearly more involved in the past than being a victim of Gil-do's deception. Will he recognize Gil-do? Does he know already?
Which brings me to Yeo-gyeong. I am still curious about what happened to get her hired. It seemed like Prosecutor Ahn would make life difficult for her after his meeting with Gil-yong (Kim Jae-young), but it has not been addressed since. Did he hire her on purpose to destroy her or does he simply not care? Did he forget due to being drunk or does he have other plans? His scene with Gil-yong could not have been random.
Congressman SoKim and Yeo-gyeong
I did not recognize Yeo-gyeong's now team member, officer Kim (Lee Yeong-jin) until after I had watched her first reappearance, but I like that the show uses all of its characters. The orphanage group need a friend who knows them, because with the show continuously teasing conflict between Tae-ha (Lee Sang-yeob) and Myeong, the other two will need a lot of help.
The web of relationships and events is getting increasingly complicated, but the series is very cryptic in some places and this keeps me invested. It does feel like a more typical Korean drama now due to all of these connections, but the pacing is good. It is also smart to not base the revenge on a two-person cat and mouse game. The style remains, the noodle connection is strong and the characters many and interesting.
"Master - God of Noodles" is directed by Kim Jong-yeon and Lim Se-joon, written by Chae Seung-dae and features Cheon Jeong-myeong, Jo Jae-hyeon, Jeong Yoo-mi and Lee Sang-yeob.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'

"Entertainers" Episode 11 recap

This episode of "Entertainers" was particularly heartwarming. As is the trend with the drama, things resolve a bit too easily and the media doesn't have enough power. Despite those faults, there is just something about Seok-ho and his boys that turns hearts into puddles of goo and defy all logic.

There is something special about the brotherhood and family forged by the characters in "Entertainers". Seok-ho, despite his ruthlessness in the beginning, has a knack for bringing people together. It is what makes him a great eye for talent and managing groups. (I do wonder that his malicious habits of years and years just disappear without any efforts to quash them, but that was explained away by his emotional distress over the composer's suicide and the situation with Jinu and Ha-neul.) The boys of the Entertainer Band band together to fight media manipulations and social stigmas: Ha-neul's frame job as the perpetrator of sexual assault and Yeon-soo's young, single fatherhood. I do very much love that such difficult issues are tackled, but I wish both were more directly combatted, especially Yeon-soo's parenthood. He is shown as a caring father who isn't ashamed of his son, which is so important for a younger parent and even more important for the mental welfare of the child.
A woman who is obviously Chan-hee's mother and Yeon-soo's first love appears and for once I'm not opposed to the "return of the ex" that is so popular in K-drama. In this case, Yeon-soo's face is everywhere and it's easy for her to find him. For whatever reason she left, and perhaps it's guilt or love or some other reason that compels her, but she's back. I'm curious to hear her reasoning to leaving Yeon-soo with their son. I'm also curious to see his reaction. He's so even-keeled, a solid support for everyone in the group. This could really throw him off and it might be exciting! Especially since he has a huge crush on Min-joo, the woman who is beautiful, good to his child, and good to their band.

The other romance in the show, Green and Seok-ho, and Ha-neul's crush on Green, seems like an afterthought compared to all of the other escapades. Between the investigation of Ha-neul's record, the band's activites, skirting media harassment while also attempting to harness media power, and surprise fanmeetings, there is almost no room for a lackluster romance. Seok-ho and Green feel like Green and Ha-neul - just like siblings. There is no spark, not like with Ha-neul's feelings for Green. I'm wondering if it has something to do with Hyeri. I felt the same way with her character in "Answer Me 1988". I was never convinced of her romantic emotions, but very much convinced by her platonic ones.
Jinu's turn around has been a painful battle against his conscience, and I appreciate the road he walked to get to this point and the fact that he was brave enough to tell the truth despite the fact that it will probably ruin his life. But this is another issue a little too easily dealt with by "Entertainers". It's a series of small problems that are tied up before moving on save for a few undercurrents of mystery like Ji-yeong's frame job and the truth behind Ha-neul's brother's death. This criticism shouldn't detract from the bravery of Jinu's character, but I do hope that the media fallout is properly portrayed and the effects on the lives of our band and Jinu are realistically depicted.

KTOP's CEO and Joo-han are just utter morons. They sit there and get mad and plan evil things without an intelligent word passed between them. They and Ji-yeong are still just reactionary villains who need some beefing out. They are mind-numbingly dull.

In spite of my quibbles, I'm still behind the show for the brotherhood. I hesitate to call it bromance because it is more than that charged word. It is makeshift family that becomes stronger than blood. It is what true friendship looks like. "Entertainers" definitely has it right.

Written by: Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'
"Entertainers" is directed by Hong Seong-chang and Lee Gwang-yeong, written by Yoo Yeong-ah, and features Ji Seong, Hyeri, Kang Min-hyuk, Chae Jeong-an, Jeon No-min, and Jeong Man-sik.
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"Lucky Romance" Episode 1 recap

Bonnie (played by Hwang Jeong-eum) tries to survive in a generally brutal world by relying on sheer grit to force people into giving her what she's owed, and begging for work that utilizes her somewhat eclectic skill set. These experiences keep causing Bonnie to run into Soo-ho (played by Ryu Jun-yeol), an obsessively scientific man with his own past traumas. Ironically enough, mechanical processes themselves often fails Soo-ho at the worst possible moments, aggravating his mental issues.
"Lucky Romance" is, at first glance, strikingly generic. The elaborate coincidences required to get Bonnie and Soo-ho in the same area smack of contrived plotting. But there is a thematic excuse for this. Bonnie has a strong interest in astrology and fortune-telling. This means that conceivably, the connections between Bonnie and Soo-ho are intended to serve as a harbinger of destiny.
Bear in mind "Lucky Romance" doesn't really explore these ideas very directly since the first episode is too highly focused on background. After several generic setpieces we finally get into Bonnie's backstory, and while this gloomy material does provide a fairly decent explanation for Bonnie's philosophy toward life, there's oddly little urgency. There's plenty of high-stakes events that inspire pity for the lead characters, yet I found myself feeling surprisingly empty after these scenes.
Visually speaking the drama is quite strong. Bonnie's standard outfit is excellent- it has a nice star motif without being overbearing, marking her as traditional yet eccentric. I suspect what's galling me is that Hwang Jong-eum is portraying Bonnie more generically than seems appropriate given what we know about the character. I mean, she spends a significant portion of this episode wearing a bunny suit for rather il-defined reasons, yet treats the experience as little more than a trifling inconvenience.
It's possible the problem is with the direction, but again, director Kim Kyeong-hee-II is quite good when it comes to the visual elements. The sight gags are extremely well done, and the scientific motif of Soo-ho's office bears the exact same sense of subtlely shown in Bonnie's costume. His science vision is also neat. I haven't read the webtoon on which "Lucky Romance" is based, but the drama does evoke a lot of the same feelings a good webtoon should in terms of visual communication. The problem is a drama needs to communicate with performances just as much as it does with backdrop, and I'm still not feeling that aspect yet.
Review by William Schwartz
"Lucky Romance" is directed by Kim Kyeong-hee-II, written by Choi Yoon-gyo and features Hwang Jeong-eum, Ryu Jun-yeol, Lee Cheong-ah and Lee Soo-hyeok.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Monster - 2016" recorded 8.6%

KBS 2TV Mon-Tue drama, 'Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho' kept first place by refreshing its best rating again.
According to the viewership rating survey by Nielsen Korea on May 25, the episode 18 of 'Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho' aired on May 24 recorded 15.5% nationwide.
This number is 1.5% compared to 14.0% of its previous episode and exceeds its personal best 15.3% so far.
However, MBC Mon-Tue drama, "Monster - 2016" recorded 8.6% and SBS Mon-Tue drama, "Jackpot" scored 8.5%.
Source : www.sportsseoul.com/n...
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"Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 18 recap

Deul-ho and Ji-wook are pulled towards their respective loved ones and away from justice. Eun-jo voices her worries over this and reminds Deul-ho and us what this series has been about. With only two episodes left, it is time for the fight against Yeong-il to get dirty and the dirt sadly touches our heroes as well. This is the first time "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" has missed some marks on its hero, but I hope the end brings justice back.
Automatic forgiveness of past transgressions because of family bonds is a pet peeve of mine in Korean drama. I have seen horrible characters being given a free pass at redemption without having worked for it or seen them suddenly grow a conscience to justify it. Wanting to support loved ones is a noble cause and a human, and therefore understandable desire. It is the execution which often fails the idea. I think this drama does a lot of things about it right.
Hae-kyeong and Deul-hoEun-jo
What gives Deul-ho's (Park Shin-yang) decision to help Sin-woo (Kang Shin-il) logic within the series is that it is at least addressed by the writing. Sin-woo was horrible to his family and Deul-ho, but it is Deul-ho's choice as a person to forgive and help him. I appreciate the fact that Eun-jo (Kang So-ra) reminds Deul-ho about how this goes against what he has been fighting for. It is a moment of weakness for him and he does betray his principles.
However, the series still paints his choice as heroic and does not pause enough on the fact that it is not, by its own previous standards. In fact, it goes to great lengths to present it as the same heroism he has been practicing when helping those unfairly charged. When you drive your hero down a different path, you need adequate development for it. I feel the series is adapting its approach to its need for a hero, essentially sugar-coating his choice.
Ji-wook and Sin-wooDeul-ho and Sin-woo
Deu-ho keeps preaching to Ji-wook (Ryoo Soo-yeong) about obeying his father, but he turns a blind eye for his own. One is presented as regrettable, the other as admirable and it comes complete with the pity-treatment. I feel disrespected as a viewer when the creators show me Chairman Jeong (Jeong Won-joong) and Sin-woo as poor sick old men. Using sympathy to avoid justice is the very thing they criticized through Chairman Jeong's summon-evading tricks.
The sad thing is, the drama does not need this. Most viewers probably love Deul-ho enough to forgive him and understand his motivation. I hope the series can come back to the point it has been making. We all love our own, be it money, power or family, but shielding the privileged does not make this world better. I hope Ji-wook and Deul-ho can let their loved ones pay for their sins and rebuild a better life.
"Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" is directed by Lee Jung-seob, written by Lee Hyang-hee and features Park Shin-yang, Kang So-ra, Ryoo Soo-yeong and Park Sol-mi.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'

"Oh Hae-Young Again" Episode 8 recap

Strictly speaking the way "Oh Hae-Young Again" replays footage from past episodes as flashbacks is a tad excessive. Do-kyeong's precognition is, itself, another form of this. But I'm always impressed at how these flashbacks accompany new information that puts these past events in radically different perspective. Way back in the first episode I thought Deok-hee came off as a bad mother. While subsequent events have better contextualized the relationship between Deok-hee and Hae-young, it's only here that Deok-hee realizes an alternate context makes her look much, much worse.
"Oh Hae-Young Again" also does its usual tough balancing act of having strong second leads. Well, all right, Tae-jin hasn't really been around enough to qualify as a second lead. Even so, Tae-jin serves the same basic purpose as the other Hae-young in that his behavior has sympathetic (if frustratingly unexplained) motivation. What's more, Tae-jin's appearances in flashback give the impression of a genuine loving partner, whose current overtures are ineffective mostly due to an inability to properly perceive appearances.
Which just goes on to beg other questions. Take the big ping-pong scene between Do-kyeong and the other Hae-young. Is it a sign of the true strength of their affection, or is the very happiness of the moment indicative of the shallowness of their relationship? Sure, sweet nothings are great in the here and now, but they're far less useful in the event of a genuine crisis.
Yet pride still remains the main issue. Do-kyeong still can't admit that he wants to see Hae-young. It seems as if his visions mainly serve the purpose of provoking Do-kyeong into making uncharacteristically aggressive romantic gestures. It is telling that Do-kyeong is able to make the time to go on these elaborate searches for Hae-young. That much is probably an indication that, work notwithstanding, Do-kyeong's friendless lifestyle has left him with more spare time than he would like.
On a lighter note, I rather like how "Oh Hae-Young Again" appears to be fetishizing terrifying women, mainly by making them seem more interesting than the more conventional Hae-young. What else to make of Soo-kyeong's deranged French ranting, or how Anna is dragging Hoon by the nose to all sorts of strange places? Hae-young, of course, outdoes them all by sulking in a way that makes it clear she does not want to be found. It's scary indeed, for Do-kyeong to think that without his visions Hae-young could be hurt. Especially considering how Do-kyeong doesn't seem terribly concerned with his own physical well-being.
Review by William Schwartz
"Oh Hae-Young Again" is directed by Song Hyeon-wook, written by Park Hae-yeong and features Eric Moon, Seo Hyeon-jin, Jeon Hye-bin, Ye Ji-won, Kim Ji-seok-I, and Heo Jeong-min
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"Jackpot" Episode 18 recap

My frustration with show hasn't ceased, but at least it's just about to jump into some action. In-jwa has been incensed and finally takes a decisive course of action. This is welcome as the bonds between characters (save perhaps the brothers), is quite weak. Without any strong bonds between In-jwa and Dam-seo, or Dam-seo and the two brothers who love her, this episode truly fell flat as did her prolonged death scene. Attempts to stir tension remain unsuccessful attempts. At least this show boasts of a stellar cast.

The show seems to be aiming to build up towards In-jwa's rebellion, which means we have two major deaths to get through and a King Yeongjo to crown. And In-jwa still won't die - I want him to. As a reviewer pointed out, he doesn't die for a while, but his characterization is horrid. I want to see him as more of a clever man and less of a shaman. His mechanizations are more mystical than well-thought out plans. I do absolutely adore when Jeon Kwang-ryeol grieves on screen. It's so powerful. Unfortunately, the buildup to the death of his adopted daughter was lackluster. The love between In-jwa and Dam-seo was sketched out, but little reinforced. When separated, we barely get to see In-jwa miss her. Such a lack makes it difficult to empathize with In-jwa. The same lack holds truth for Dae-gil's and Yeoning's love for her. We saw little save for the overt signs of "love" that detailed their feelings. Television needs to reinforce such things for it to have greater impact.
What Dam-seo's death does do for "Jackpot" is give In-jwa the impetus he needed to come out of the shadows and battle. He has finally stopped lurking. Admittedly, bloodily murdering a prince was out of place, especially for In-jwa, but it is a plausible way for the prince to die. Yeonryeong died a year before his father.
Brothers Dae-gil and Yeoning are redefining their relationship as politics, family, and social issues work their way into the fabric of their brotherhood. I genuinely hope they remain allies, but royal brothers as enemies is a popular theme in history, literature, and K-drama. Theirs is the richest relationship in the show by far. However, even this relationship isn't well-developed. With six episodes to go, I'm not sure how far the timeline will span, but it will definitely be full of action. In-jwa's murder has seen to that.

Written by: Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'
"Jackpot" is directed by Nam Geon, written by Kwon Soon-gyoo, and features Jang Geun-seok, Yeo Jin-goo, Jeon Kwan-ryeol, Choi Min-soo, Lim Ji-yeon, and Yoon Jin-seo.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

'Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho' scored 14%

'Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho' guarded its first place among Monday & Tuesday dramas.
According to the viewership rating survey on May 24 by Nielsen Korea, the episode KBS 2TV's 'Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho' aired on the previous day scored 14%. This figure is 1.3% down compared to 15.3% of its previous episode, but it is still ahead of all the competitors of Monday & Tuesday dramas.
On this day, Jo Deul-ho (Park Shin-yang) put his best effort forth to save Jang Hae-gyeong (Park Sol-mi), who was arrested by Prosecutors' office. Sin Yeong-il (Kim Gap-soo) ordered to arrest her based on the evidences that she allegedly established a paper company to help Chairman Jeong with tax evasion.
Although Jang Sin-woo (Kang Sin-il) wanted to compromise with Sin Yeong-il, Sin Yeong-il tried to separate himself from Chairman Jeong completely in order to become the Public Prosecutor General for next promotion.
Jang Sin-woo held a special press conference and introduced Jo Deul-ho. Jo Deul-ho used the conference to press Sin Yeong-il.
Meanwhile, MBC "Monster - 2016" and SBS "Jackpot" recorded 8.1% and 9.5% respectively.
Source : star.mk.co.kr/new/vie...
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"Jackpot" Episode 17 recap

Yi In-jwa and his nine lives are quite tiresome. The character sticks around beyond all reason. Rather than focus on his ridiculous mechanizations, why can't the show take some real historical happenings and buff them out for this rendition of King Sukjong's and Yeoning's lives? In any case, In-jwa is still here and fluctuating between the maniacal and the serene. Scenes of his omnipotence are punctuated by a few good moments of brotherly love, a death, and some massive political plans that don't feel very massive.
Yeoning is in a pivotal position right now, learning the inner workings of palace politics, the molasses-like speed of the political machine, and the extent of his own power. That would be a great direction for this show to take, especially if they're making a play with Dae-gil as a contender for the throne. Maybe he'll take over Yeoning's identity so Yeoning can run off with Dam-seo. I'm imagining anything more plausible than one man with overwhelming power and foresight. The most incredible event of the episode was the fact that Man-geum was discovered to be alive and a pawn of In-jwa's. It's humorous how these coincidences keep building up.
On a more somber note, Sukbin succumbed to her illness and true to history, Yeoning is devastated and unable to honor her as he wishes to because of her "lowly" social status. Seo Jin-goo does a commendable job of balancing his grief with his rage at In-jwa. When the king collapses at the end of the episode, I believe it's probably just a fainting spell because the king and Sukbin historically pass two years apart. If he's really dead, well, then we'll get the sickly crown prince on the throne and more of In-jwa - he and In-jwa are buddies.

In-jwa's characterization is what bothers me most. He is partially mad with his dreams of the future and his delusions of grandeur. He is partially grounded enough to show concern for Dam-seo. I would like to see more steadiness in him.
I wish there was more for Jang Geun-seok to do with his role. It's so reactive and full of useless tears. Jang cries so well, but his character has received little to no development since he became a martial arts and gambling master. The same holds true Yeo Jin-goo. The side characters literally appear for a brief shot in a few scenes and forgotten. It's all so haphazard. Come on, episode 18. Please be better.
Written by: Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'
"Jackpot" is directed by Nam Geon, written by Kwon Soon-gyoo, and features Jang Geun-seok, Yeo Jin-goo, Jeon Kwan-ryeol, Choi Min-soo, Lim Ji-yeon, and Yoon Jin-seo.
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"Oh Hae-Young Again" Episode 7 recap

Jin-sang (played by Kim Ji-seok-I) is Do-kyeong's best friend, and symbolic of the greatest flaw in the love story between Do-kyeong and Hae-young. The foundation of their romance is a misunderstanding by Jin-sang that provoked an unnecessary and vindictive move on Do-kyeong's part, which neither Jin-sang nor Do-kyeong have been able to satisfactorily resolve. It's been easy to minimize that incident up until now. But with what we now know about Do-kyeong's mother Ji-ya (played by Nam Gi-ae), long-term psychological issues are becoming harder to ignore.
Now doesn't that feel out of place. The entire first portion of this episode is just about beautiful love- not even romantic love. Hae-young has to ask a favor of her parents and rather than question the context at all the whole family gets right to work. Deok-hee reminds me more and more of her daughter in that a prickly personality mostly just serves to hide a genuine passion and optimism that's well balanced by her husband Gyeong-soo (played by Lee Han-wi), a man whose passivity in everything except a crisis situation also reminds me of Do-kyeong.
But there are still dark sides to this. Note how when Do-kyeong does something really nice for his sound effects team, he doesn't even smile or act happy. At first this seems cute and very much in character. Yet Do-kyeong being so prideful he won't act nice- that's a problem. Do-kyeong can't even appreciate when his vision explicitly tells him that his relationship with Hae-young is in serious danger.
While Hae-young also has pride, it does help that her pride deals in more easily understood aggravations. By this point it's all too clear that the other Hae-young is more a state of mind than she is a real person. The poor woman only has a few scenes in this episode, and in one of them she somewhat incredibly says something that can only possibly be interpreted as a compliment to Hae-young proper.
It really is impressive how well every little facet of "Oh Hae-Young Again" is so well interconnected. Every single crippling insecurity appears to be based on largely inaccurate impressions created by or about other people. Which brings me back to Jin-sang. It's nice that he's trying to be a good friend, since Do-kyeong's reticence will only do more damage the longer he refuses to talk. But his plan still ends up being pretty dumb, and only an improvement over Ji-ya's attitude in that Jin-sang (as well as most of the other characters) are not actively being malicious.
Review by William Schwartz
"Oh Hae-Young Again" is directed by Song Hyeon-wook, written by Park Hae-yeong and features Eric Moon, Seo Hyeon-jin, Jeon Hye-bin, Ye Ji-won, Kim Ji-seok-I, and Heo Jeong-min
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"Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 17 recap

The time has come in "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" for our heroes and villains to give into or resist some great temptations. The actions taken by different characters are surprising and so is the way the writing handles some of them. I am not sure if this is a good thing, but it is definitely unexpected, keeping the series suspenseful. Sin-woo is the man of the hour and he has set big things in motion.
First up we have the outcome which least surprised me when it comes to our main characters and that is Ji-wook's (Ryoo Soo-yeong) decision to help his father, even if a little. At least for now. His alignment with the good side came too early to be final and a short lapse in judgement before the big finish is to be expected. No smart storytelling reveals the true colors of a character whose choices are the most interesting thing about him without a twist.
Ji-wookHae-kyeong and Sin-woo
On the other side of our second leads, Hae-kyeong (Park Sol-mi) being so surprised by Geum San's state comes as a shocker to me. I was under the impression she knew a fair deal about it and simply regretted aiding its corruption. Is this forced redemption for the sake of the OTP or will the past be fully explained? I do not mind plot holes in trials and schemes, but a clear explanation of the past matters for characters the show wants me to like.
Which brings me to Deul-ho (Park Shin-yang). He triumphantly frees Hae-kyeong, but the moral choices he makes are not addressed. Like Ji-wook, he lies to save his lady and her father, despite the latter's illegal acts. Like Ji-wook, he chooses against justice for the first time, but we do not see the same internal conflict. This worries me, because our hero should not be exempt from what the show has been preaching through him. I once said I wish Deul-ho would face tougher moral challenges, like representing a guilty party, and the celebratory tone of the episode's ending left me with a feeling of unease.
Yeong-il and Sin-wooSoo-bin and Deul-ho
Sin-woo (Kang Shin-il) does make a better choice this time regarding his daughter. Unlike Yeong-il (Kim Kap-soo), who shamelessly uses his son despite knowing better, Sin-woo regrets doing the same in the past. To this I say cry me a river and I am disappointed that the writing paints a grown man as a victim who was fooled by the Big Bad Wolf called Yeong-il. There is no excuse good enough to redeem our not-beloved father-in-law, but he can at least correct some wrongs now.
As we march to the finish line, assuming and praying this does not get extended, I expect more reshuffling of our players on the side of good and bad, except for Neighborhood Manipulator Sin Yeong-il. He is steadily growing horns by now. The only corruption I accept from our heroes is Soo-bin (Heo Jeong-eun) using her cutesy ways to get her homework done. I am willing to lie and call that outsourcing.
"Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" is directed by Lee Jung-seob, written by Lee Hyang-hee and features Park Shin-yang, Kang So-ra, Ryoo Soo-yeong and Park Sol-mi.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'

"Vampire Detective" Episode 9 recap

This time around, our detective trio tackles another mystery and warns about some of the dangers of being famous on the internet. Episode eight was not perfect, but it was a solid attempt at creating emotional investment and it lacked major plot holes. Episode nine is not only a haphazard attempt at criticizing online broadcasters while being a "light" story, its conclusion sadly makes about as much sense as an octopus wearing a thong.
People are discovering new ways of using the ever evolving internet to express themselves, socialize, promote their work and create opportunities for their future. As any tool, however, there are dangers to it if used unwisely. Adding to that the fact that technology advances faster than our ability to safely adjust to it and it makes for good horror stories. Or in this case, a not-murder mystery. The episode looks at these dangers as well as the role of parenting in them, but only in passing.
A remorseful fatherMonitoring the broadcasters
It is a shame that the creators do not go deeper into their concepts, because the chosen topics are very relevant to modern societies and deserve proper exploration in all facets of our daily lives, including entertainment. The character of the father is also a very interesting one, flawed and caring at the same time, unable to understand the tool that eventually took his son's life. His character sadly ends up a victim of the episode's problems.
He and his son are appealing, but their lives are not given enough focus. It is hard for me to care when the writer treats online entertainment as work for greedy, pathetic "losers". It is especially short-sighted criticism for a show aired on a paid cable channel which wholeheartedly embraces online promotion and content. This careless and generalized demonizing of entertainment created by internet personae as an overall concept helps the episode's point, but in a forced manner.
Dangers of the internetA neglected son
Things do not look better on the mystery side, in what is one of the worst wrap up jobs I have seen in this series yet. We are asked to believe that a man who knew next to nothing about his son's working environment quickly became tech-savvy enough to freely manipulate it. We are not shown this process and it does not make the obvious twist less obvious. This humble taxi driver and a yoga instructor have some mad skills.
I know something has gone terribly wrong when I start wondering if the writer has been kidnapped and replaced with a panicked member of the catering staff. I know I am being harsh here, but I cannot sugar-coat the issues of this episode without lying. Our main story is still here somewhere. I think we will find some of it next week. Let us see how you fare in wrapping up your main case, "Vampire Detective".
"Vampire Detective" is directed by Kim Ga-ram and Lee Seung-hoon-IV, written by Yoo Youngseon and features Lee Joon, Oh Jeong-se, Lee Se-yeong and Lee Cheong-ah.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

"Beautiful Gong Shim" Episode 4 recap

There is a clear break between what is good and what is not so good in "Beautiful Gong Shim". What is good is so delightfully strong in content and execution while what is bad is draggy and dull. Any scene with Namgoong Min is fantastic. Family affairs are bogging the drama down and there may be more of it to come as families begin to interfere with more aspects of the plot.

Dan-tae's grandmother is a wreck of a woman. She is so distraught over the loss of Joon-pyo (soon to be revealed to be Dan-tae) that she treats the rest of her family like garbage. With so many bad feelings circling the ether in this show, I could do without this aspect, especially when Gong Shim's Family is clearly biased towards the selfish Gong Mi and we the viewers are subjected to their idiocy whenever they appear on screen. Gong Mi is absolutely shameless in her treatment of her parents, her sister, and even Joon-soo. Nothing in her is sincere, and that's a problem. She'd be a stronger character if she had a clearly defined goal and a clearer moral compass, no matter how skewed it may or may not be.
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What is annoying is that Joon-soo, who seems to be a genuine fellow, is seeming to be swayed by Gong Mi's efforts. It was to be expected, but I can't help but feel annoyed. All the people with whom Gong Mi has the strongest relationships are honest and forthcoming, including Joon-soo. I do appreciate that Gong Shim is heart broken over his easy acquiesce to his mother's desires. I can't help but think that he was just placating his mother, but it hurts for Gong Shim to hear. Yet again she has been relegated to the side because of her looks and lack of education. I beg of the show to please prove my predictions wrong. Don't make Joon-soo genuinely like Gong Mi. And just for the record, I loved seeing her get attached by bananas.

As for Dan-tae and Gong Shim, I love this pair. He is truly a clueless puppy when it comes to women and love. He is sincere in his feelings for her and is completely awkward around her. Never does he flatten her ego or her pride, however. He doesn't do what her family does. He just rambles awkwardly and keeps attempting to make connections with her. It works as this episode finds her purposefully approaching him. Despite her hatred of being treated as ugly and undesirable, she holds the same standards and judges Dan-tae by them. However, I believe those standards are being broken by the sincerity behind the bumbling oaf.
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Dan-tae's future family reveals and acquisition of sudden wealth is coming and I'm not looking forward to that. I am looking forward to the family dynamic. I want to see how that gets worked out. His father having a deadly tumor was a bit much, but we'll go with it since, well, what else can we do? Speaking of brain tumors, I wonder if his "superpower" the one I spoke of last review, is indicative of any sickness. A quick internet search shows that the ability to perceive quick motion in slow motion is often the sign of a medical problem. This doesn't make it the final say on anything, but it does make me curious.

Written by: Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'
"Beautiful Gong Shim" is directed by Baek Soo-chan, written by Lee Hee-myeong, and features Namgoong Min, Minah, On Joo-wan, Seo Hyo-rim, Oh Hyun-keyong, and Woo Hyeon.
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