Sunday, April 30, 2017

"Radiant Office" Episode 4 recap

A new episode heralds in a new company problem, and this time on "Radiant Office" the drama takes a look at nepotistic tendencies of higher management. Ho-won continues to show more spunk than ever before, fighting for her rights despite her low rank. Around her others continue to suffer due to the hierarchy, giving in or fighting in their own way.

Kang-ho is a light presence in this episode, suffering from the expectations of his mother and the belittling treatment of the superiors. Although selfish, he suffers because of his situation and from the guilt of his betrayal of Ho-won. It is telling of his friendly with Ho-won and Gi-taek that they eventually reconcile their friendship. A single kindness from Ho-won mends their relationship, which is so beautiful in a landscape of brutal selfishness and oneupmanship.
Radiant Office ep4 3Radiant Office ep4 4
While the friends work out their issues, the general managers and higher ups struggle through an intricate power game, especially regarding "nakasan", or "parachutes", who are people who fly in on the backs of family members or friends. They are the people who come into companies because of connections. Woo-jin seems to despise these types, having lost opportunities to nakasan before and having worked his way to the top despite being shoved to the side. Initially amused and impressed by Ho-won's newfound gumption for work and excelling in the office, he later is appalled by the fact that she and her friends were hired as "nakasan". It'll be interesting to see how that works out because the trio has no idea that the handsome doctor who treated them on the day of their suicide attempts hired them.

Speaking of the doctor, Ho-won has a monster crush on him and he's still quite the mystery. What little is known about him really amounts to nothing. He's a doctor; he's connected to the company where this drama takes place; and he has enough power to bring in three suicidal job seekers as temp workers. Oh yes, he's good looking. But in a Korean drama, that's a given.
Radiant Office ep4 1Radiant Office ep4 2
Split into two factions, the workplace is now a place of extreme tension that makes those who suck up to management and those who refuse to do so at odds with each other. Based upon the first three episodes, the rest of the drama may cycle through the different stereotypical workplace woes and issues, tackling each with a different situation. Along the way I'm sure romance will blossom and workplace dynamics will change. Gi-taek and Kang-ho need to find the spine that Ho-won has found. Hopefully they will.

Written by: Lisa Espinosa AKA Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'
"Radiant Office" is directed by Jeong Ji-in and Park Sang-hoon-III, written by Jeong Hee-hyeon, and features Go Ah-seong, Ha Seok-jin, Lee Dong-hwi, and Hoya.
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"Man to Man" Episode 2 recap

Although "Man to Man" doesn't have too much substance yet, I can genuinely say that I'm having a blast watching it. Park Hae-jin is winning; Park Seong-woong has wry comedy down pat; and Kim Min-jeong, despite her annoying character, has impeccable delivery. Of course, the quality of the production is high and the writing is witty. I'm looking forward to how this show rolls out.

Storywise, the main characters are shoved together and have to get used to each other. Woon-gwang's ego is a tool used for plot manipulation, moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity, and also to juxtapose his sincerity in caring for those around him. As a foil to his funny man, Seol-woo is a dashing straight man whose almost superhuman ghost spy skills keep Woon-gwang in check. This includes mocking the wrist grab the slow-mo run down the street, standing closely together in an alleyway, and spending copious amounts of time together. Do-ha functions almost as a third wheel to this budding bromance, sparking suspicion of Seol-woo in those around her and especially Woon-gwang. She's determined to have Seol-woo fired, jealous of his new relationship with her Oppa Woon-gwang. But there is also a spark of interest in Seol-woo regarding Do-ha, so this could be an interesting love triangle.
Man to Man 1Man to Man 2
Seung-jae continues to be an imposing presence (and part of that is owed to Yeong Jeong-hoon, a perpetually fantastic actor). His dangerous partnership with Congressman Baek (Cheon Ho-jin), who is equally ambitious and perhaps more ruthless, starts to flesh out as we see the lengths they will go to in order to secure political power. Both this pair and Seol-woo and his organization are after wood carvings that will lead them to a powerful secret. There is definitely a confrontation between the parties brewing.

Seung-jae's wife, Mi-eun, definitely harbors feelings for Woon-gwang. She constantly puts herself in his path and Seung-jae is no fool - he has cottoned onto her interest and doesn't like it one bit. His ego and tendency to do anything to get what he wants foreshadows a tense relationship between him and Woon-gwang that probably won't result in anything good.
Man to Man 3Man to Man 4
Much in the line of many action films, the end of the episode ends in an epic car chase with Seol-woo driving maniacally to save lives and prevent everyone from careening over a steep cliff to a most certain demise. Although I'm a critic who loves some substance, it was pretty exciting to watch. I'm anxious to see what happens, which means "Man to Man" is doing it's job as a television show.

Written by: Lisa Espinosa AKA Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'
"Man to Man" is directed by Kim Sang-ho-I and Lee Chang-min-I, written by Kim Won-seok-II, and features Park Hae-jin, Kim Min-jeong, Park Sung-woon, and Yeon Jeong-hoon.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Drama Recap "Whisper" Episode 7

Dong-joon's newfound confidence and rediscovered sense of justice make him determined to take down Jeong-il and set things right for Yeong-joo and her family. The several antagonists of "Whisper" are starting to feel the pressure of their power games and cracks have begun to form in their mighty facade. Everyone has reasons to fight which are important to them and this means that backing down indefinitely is not something they are willing to do.
I am not sure when Dong-joon (Lee Sang-yoon) went from backstabbing villain to a fighter for justice and moral standards, but this is a thing that is happening right now and so our lead is busier than usual. At the same time, Dong-joon is being way too cocky with even his own allies, willing and blackmailed, which is already starting to backfire. This does create tension, however, so it is a welcome flaw of his approach to things.
Hyeon-gook and Dong-joon discussing their dealYeong-joo regaining her resolve
I am glad to see Yeong-joo (Lee Bo-young) back in action, because as networked as Dong-joon is, he is not that great with the practical side of things. I do wish Yeong-joo will have more screen time, but the fact that both characters have their unique skills and importance in the proceedings keeps things balanced. Having the female character as the capable brawn is also a fun change in the usual dynamics.
As for our second leads, this episode marks the first true turmoil in their relationship and I can definitely see it getting poisoned by outside influences and inside lack of trust. There is poetic justice in seeing the villains who hurt others for their love destroying each other through a mutual lack of trust. Jeong-il (Kwon Yul) essentially denies that he would sacrifice himself for Soo-yeon (Park Se-yeong) and she is starting to lose her dream life. Their fallout will be a deserved and enjoyable one.
Soo-yeon lashing out at Jeong-ilDong-joon asking Il-hwan to join him
One thing I do appreciate about "Whisper" is that its characters do not act solely out of thirst for power, which is a typical and boring motivation in Korean drama. "Whisper" gives them human driving forces, making them appealing. Avoiding punishment, protecting one's own, resisting oppression, hiding shame; these are diverse and deeply personal reasons, which admittedly make the underdevelopment of the characters driven by them more regretful.
As for Soo-yeon's closing kiss, however, I would advice her to stop watching so many soaps. I expect the series to explain how exactly this kiss would ruin the trust between Dong-joon and Yeong-joo, who are clearly bound by personal goals, or at least why Soo-yeon feels that it would. That is assuming the kiss is her endgame. An odd ending to an episode, but dramas cannot resist their romantic intrigue too often.
"Whisper" is directed by Lee Myeong-woo, written by Park Kyeong-soo and features Lee Bo-young, Lee Sang-yoon, Kwon Yul and Park Se-yeong.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
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Drama Recap "My Secret Romance" Episode 1

Jin-wook (played by Sung Hoon) is a playboy and a bit of a jerk. The first we see of the guy, he takes over a party and then walks back his sexiness with a rather ridiculous sounding excuse. As mean and selfish as Jin-wook seems at first glance, we do find out by the end that the excuse is actually evidence of Jin-wook's secret good side. Which is fortunate, since up until that point, we frequently see Jin-wook get in trouble for stuff that's not actually his fault, yet never does he seem all that sympathetic.
Meanwhile, Yoo-mi (played by Song Ji-eun) is the kind of person who comes to a nightclub dressed like an accountant and makes a fool of herself whenever she lets go of her inhibitions. The rest of the time, Yoo-mi is exceptionally clumsy. We see little evidence of Yoo-mi being a particularly good person, although we do at least feel sorry for her. Yoo-mi's mother Bok-ja (played by Kim Si-yeong) is...a piece of work, I'll tell you that much.
More than any of the characters, though, the real person of interest in "My Secret Romance" is director Kang Cheol-woo. He made "Something About 1% - 2016" last year a drama which, much like "My Secret Romance", was incredibly archetypal. "Something About 1% - 2016" also had a rich jerk and an antisocial (if disproportionately cute) nerd. The one night stand element is reminiscent of "Fated to Love You", and even the secret corporate heir trope is reminiscent of...lots of dramas really.
So what does Kang Cheol-woo add that's different? Well, mostly he focuses a lot on scenes that don't involve dialogue. Musical montages, complicated camerawork, and disproportionate emphasis on awkward moments all work to make "My Secret Romance" seem, on the superficial level anyway, to be quite stylish. This helps "My Secret Romance" feel more like a movie than a drama with its particular emphasis on physical, rather than emotional humor.
But for all that "My Secret Romance" is nonetheless still a very obviously classically clichéd South Korean romantic comedy drama. The main accomplishment so far is that I can at least understand why it's on OCN- "My Secret Romance" is clearly making an effort to be a cool, hip romantic comedy for young people. Whether it's actually succeeding is a bit more difficult to say. At minimum I'm not being actively annoyed, and I am at least mildly curious as to what's going to happen next.
Review by William Schwartz
"My Secret Romance" is directed by Kang Cheol-woo, written by Kim Ha-na-I and Kim Yeong-woon and features Sung Hoon, Song Ji-eun, Kim Jae-young and Jeong Da-sol.

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Drama Recap "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 23

King Yeonsangun starts us off by declaring a war on babies. I...wish I was exaggerating but King Yeonsangun really does jump from typical jerk evil to cartoonish supervillain evil so fast that I barely had time to process what was happening before babies started getting smothered to death. My initial concerns about this being mere egregious scriptwriting are mostly alleviated by mid-episode recitations of what I presume are actual royal orders that are consistently in line with King Yeonsangun's actions in the drama.
And what does Gil-dong do while all of this is happening? Oh, he breaks out of jail. We don't actually get to see him breaking out of jail, and it's not totally clear how his allies managed to get out either. In fact, I was wondering whether Gil-dong's first big appearance was just King Yeonsangun going into a paranoid hallucination. And maybe it was a paranoid hallucination because I mean really, a war on babies? At that point the gloves really need to come off.
It should be noted that while the phrase war on babies probably makes this episode sound rather exciting it's actually overall one of the more boring ones of the drama. Gil-dong still isn't really actually doing anything- his team appears to be caught in this endless cycle of just making more plans. Coupled with the big boulder scene I kind of got the impression that they weren't really taking the whole war on babies thing seriously, so I lost interest pretty rapidly.
King Yeonsangun, by contrast, is extremely proactive when it comes to accomplishing his obviously terribly and stupid goals. But historical justification notwithstanding, I'm still a little shocked that Nok-soo thinks there's any way to negotiate going forward when King Yeonsangun's actions have turned so preposterously outrageous. There is a pretty potent political allegory in there, though. Sure we can get women jobs, but maternity leave? Eh war on babies is easier.
While I want "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" to get back into heroic swashbuckling justice crusade mode, I'm a little worried at this point that this might not be possible anymore. The drama has just...kind of gotten to be a huge downer. The situation really is that hopeless, especially since we know Gil-dong can't win. Well, I guess the real Gil-dong did start his own kingdom, but he was a fictional character. Hm. Yes, the inherently fictional nature of Hong Gil-dong makes him a fairly awkward character to challenge a real-life tyrant.
Review by William Schwartz
"Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" is directed by Jin Chang-gyoo, Kim Jin-man, written by Hwang Jin-yeong and features Kim Sang-joong, Yoon Kyun-sang, Kim Ji-suk, Lee Honey and Chae Soo-bin.
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Drama Recap "Strong Family" Episodes 17-18

For the first time, Cheon-il uses his tracksuit for its intended purpose- as workout clothes, in anticipation of the big company athletic competition which he ends up taking far, far too aggressively. I was a little disappointed that Cheon-il's training montage is just general athletics. It would have made for a much funnier overall joke if Cheon-il had been taking mixed martial arts lessons and his performance on the field was a result of his mis-applying those skills in the wrong context.
Elsewhere, Ik-hee starts taking private tutoring lessons on the behest of her mother, which predictably backfires since Ik-hee made very clear her desire to continue going to a private classroom rather than take prviate lessons. This story was noteworthy to me mainly because the tutor is played by Park Jin-joo, an actress I rather like even though she has trouble getting anything better than third tier roles. Still, Ik-hee's rude albeit reasonable question about employment prospects was fairly funny.
Next, the eighteenth episode presents a more unified theme where it comes to first loves. All three of the principal characters have first loves, after all, even if Ik-hee is still in the middle of hers. But what I rather liked was the ambiguity at play as to what constitutes a "first love". Logically, that would seem to be the first person you are in love with, and that requires mutual recognition of feelings, and presumably a relationship-ending event beyond the couple's control.
By that definition, though, the first love for a lot of people is just their first serious relationship. So what about someone you just had a romantic crush on way back when? Does that count? Well, as "Strong Family" shows us, while it can count on the technical level, it probably shouldn't, because the person you had a crush on may well have just been a total jerk. So really, the whole first love idea is really more about random nostalgia than anything that should warrant further serious thought.
The ideas at play in the eighteenth episode are fairly interesting, and even dovetail well with the jokes being made, although the emotional core is what's really sweet. I especially liked the line about the last love. It is funny how no one ever talks about that so much. So once more "Strong Family" is as it always is- a fairly rote domestic comedy that wonders, some times more effectively than others, about the meaning of a normal life.
Review by William Schwartz
"Strong Family" is directed by Choi Moon-seok, written by Jin Yeong and features Park Hyeok-kwon, Park Seon-yeong, Kim Ji-min, Eom Hyo-seob, Park Hee-bon, Kim Ki-ri and Hoya.
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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Drama Recap "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 7

It is revelations galore in episode seven of "Tunnel - Drama" as the modern Gwang-ho's connection to our leads becomes clearer. Gwang-ho's identity is compromised as Seon-jae refuses to let go. Meanwhile, hidden parts of Jae-i's past are about to make their entrance, and it looks like Gwang-ho's protective behavior towards her is exactly what surely many of us will have guessed it to be by now.
Birth secrets are a Korean drama staple, so I am not surprised to see one here. Given how obvious it has been made through Gwang-ho's (Choi Jin-hyuk) behavior, Jae-i (Lee Yoo-young) being his daughter is old news. They might as well be spoon-feeding it to us now with a hefty side of dumplings. What interests me more is Jae-i's past and seemingly repressed memories. Yeon-sook (Lee Si-ah) raised her well into childhood, so she was either unwilling or unable to continue. I am leaning towards unable.
Jae-i eating the dumplings Yeon-sook used to loveSeon-jae's father reunites with Gwang-ho
The birth secrets continue, as Seon-jae (Yoon Hyun-min) might have to deal with the awkward reality of Gwang-ho having changed his diapers at some point. Between Seong-sik's (Jo Hee-bong) words and Kim Hwan's (Kim Jung-hak) recognition, Seon-jae will not be able to deny reality much longer. This is actually a great thing, because the series is better off focusing on the things we do not know, rather than the things we do. Our leads cannot take forever to be on the same page.
Now that "Gwang-ho lite" has been revealed as snooping into the case of the old murders, new possibilities open up that need exploring. The unfortunate young man did not stop when Gwang-ho said he is with the police, so my suspicion of his pursuer being part of the force seems likely. We still have Jeong Ho-yeong (Heo Sung-tae) as a very likely candidate for at least one or some of the serial killings, however, and this complicates things and possibly adds culprits.
Seon-jae calls Jin-woo for helpHo-yeong's mugshot
Until recently I felt that only Seo Yi-soo was possibly killed by him, but I did mention that whoever gave his alibi might be lying. If Ho-yeong is the only killer, maybe his alibi is our mystery figure. The man had dark hair and was young and able-bodied enough to take down a young man, even if drugged and injured. Could it be a sibling of Ho-yeong or even someone who was committing murders with him?
My suspicion for coroner Jin-woo (Kim Min-sang-I) still stands, as well. Aside from his talk of hiding, his prodding about our hero and his access to substances he could have used on modern day Gwang-ho, he accepts the responsibility of a hidden investigation too easily. I might just be seeing non-existent twists everywhere, but that is what makes "Tunnel - Drama" so fun.
"Tunnel - Drama" is directed by Sin Yong-hwi and Kim Seong-min-I, written by Lee Eun-mi-III and features Choi Jin-hyuk, Yoon Hyun-min and Lee Yoo-young.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'

Friday, April 14, 2017

"Mystery Queen" : Episode 4 recap

Choi Kang-hee's husband Yoon Hee-seok appeared for 5 seconds and left a deep impression.
On the latest episode of the KBS 2TV drama "Mystery Queen", Kim Ho-cheol (Yoon Hee-seok) made his first appearance.
Yoo Seol-ok (Choi Kang-hee) quarreled with Ha Wan-seung (Kwon Sang-woo), then embraced the truth of the case and managed to influence the old man who gave a false statement. However, she lost her timing to get a critical clue due to her mother-in-law Park Kyeong-sook's (Park Joon-geum) phone call.
The old man shut his mouth again and his suspect son arrived at the police station. Yoo Seol-ok started asking him sharp questions, then she suddenly received a call from home again. So she answered it and said, "I can't go home tonight" then hung up.
However, this time it was her husband Kim Ho-cheol. He was dumbfounded at her reaction when he'd come home after a long time of being away.
Yoo Seol-ok had given up going to school herself and spent her days supporting her husband who is a prosecutor. She's suffered from her in-laws all this time. Meanwhile, Ha Wan-seung had thought Kim Ho-cheol was still single as he had pretended to be.
Kim Ho-cheol appeared like that. It was only 5 seconds, sighing towards the phone but it was a point where his wife was telling him that she wasn't coming home and showed resistance.
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"Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 23 recap

While "Saimdang: Light's Diary" has always suffered from direct comparison to the also currently airing "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People", the timing this week is especially unfortunate. The latter drama just explicitly made a point about how proper representation of women in the arts is a completely meaningless victory in the context of a political situation so bad that people are actively being murdered. As a result, the plot in "Saimdang: Light's Diary" about Saimdang heroically striking a blow for women everywhere by painting the king's portrait just comes off as really awkward.
Saimdang did not end sexism, and probably didn't even understand what the concept of sexism was. But you know, "Saimdang: Light's Diary" could have addressed this in far more plausible and less stupid ways. Saimdang wasn't even her real name- just the artist's most common pen name. Was she hiding her gender? That could be a good vehicle for discussing sexism. Of course the real Saimdang probably valued privacy too which she is, uh, not doing here.
But back to people being murdered. Am I the only one who found it weird that Chi-yeong was killing people and destroying property, yet only ends up on house arrest because he was on the losing side of the art competition? Once again, all those parts of Chi-yeong being a monstrous thug could have easily been excised from "Saimdang: Light's Diary" and the plot would not have been meaningfully altered in any way.
Of course, then the problem would be that there's no one to send an army of goons to interfere in Saimdang and Lee Gyum's act of true love- drawing a portrait of King Jungjong which honestly isn't even that good. Which I guess in a roundabout way does kind of impress on me the value of Saimdang's art. I've been genuinely impressed with most of what we've seen so far. The royal portrait, by contrast, I'm not sure why anyone would even want to display it in public.
That's not just a criticism of the aesthetics. I was kind of under the impression that royal portraits were more for personal use than they were something intended to impress the common people. Which is also kind of my problem with "Saimdang: Light's Diary" as a whole. The production team, in making Saimdang a hero, has almost completely obscured the actual reasons why she's famous. Although technically Lee Gyum is, as usual, the character with the most agency.
Review by William Schwartz
"Saimdang: Light's Diary" is directed by Yoon Sang-ho, written by Park Eun-ryeong and features Lee Young-ae, Song Seung-heon, Oh Yoon-ah, Park Hye-soo, Yoon Ye-joo, Yoon Da-hoon and Kim Hae-sook.
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