Sunday, May 03, 2020

[Review] KBS Drama Special 2017 Full Season

This drama season has the subtitle: "The Law of the Melo", so going into it, I expected tragedy. Let's put it that way - the only tragedy is that these are only one episodes wonders.

As with every season there are stories I enjoyed more than others, some were more vague than others so it was hard to keep up, and some had even a happy ending.

Episode 1: If We Were A Season

Well, it has both Jinyoung AND Jang Dongyun, so I guess it's a season of love. And heartbreak. 
This episode was all bittersweet. It was about the right timing. Jjong also said that love is about timing and here Giseok missed his. He was late. And then Donggyeong came and messed it all up, breaking the lifelong friendship (but you know, no blaming here). Because Haerim and Giseok were born on the same day, they grew up as neighbors, they did everything together and they were so familiar with each other almost as siblings. So when Giseok realized what's going on in his own head, the calm was already disrupted by that damn cute new student.
There is also a slightly sketched topic of parental affair - Haerim's father is having an affair with a piano teacher and in his attempt to explain it to Haerim, he says that it just happened. And she uses the same line when trying to explain her actions to Giseok. He gives her last piece of advice before withdrawing completely and breaking any contact with her - so that she would do whatever she wants, and not what others want. That's a direct connection to what she said earlier, during one of their usual talks - she wanted to study in Seoul and become an elementary teacher. To his snorting comment that there are also universities close to their southern hometown, she replies she wants to do what her parents want her to do. And yet, she did what he wanted her to do - she took a gap year, which infuriated her family, she didn't follow the path they chose for her.
I think that what there was for Donggyeon was exactly what she called - a flutter. Precisely because he was something new, something exciting. And when the excitement vaporized, she realized that the one person who was always for her, might no longer be there. And yet he was waiting at the train platform to send her off. And then, after he hugged her, reminiscing how that's her favorite ending ("because that implies that's not the end of the story") she realized that this time it was her who was too late.
I loved everyone here, and everyone did a great job bringing those characters to life. Special bow to Yi Junhyeok in a totally adorable role of a teacher. And he'll appear again in the later episode about Bad Family (I really adore this actor, he can play probably anyone, as per Catch the Ghost one moment).
Future PDs should know to NOT cast Jinyoung and Dongyun together. There's only so much my poor heart can take.

Episode 2: Let Us Meet, Ju-oh

It takes place in Japan-occupied Korea and it starts silly and remains silly. We meet our leading lady in the middle of a bustling street, buying a magazine featuring romance novels. As it turns out - she ran from a rural home and her traditional Joseon father. But you can take the bumpkin out of the country yet you can't take the country out of the bumpkin. She still wears hanbok even though she works at the 10-jeon store. And she wants to get married. To do that, she decides to join the marriage agency as a customer. The boss there is Cha Ju-oh. His father gave all of his money to the independence fighters, so the family lost all the social footing and their property is under the red stickers.
One day, while visiting the Japanese Imperial office Ju-oh's father sees the conscript about the sending young women to the front under the pretenses to work.
Meanwhile, Suji is approached, through an agency, by a young Japanese man, seriously interested in marrying her. And you know, I was sad she went for the main guy, really, and not Yuto, but this drama might be too much for just one episode. To avoid getting involved with Yuto, whom she fancies at the beginning, she decides to go to Manchuria.

Episode 3: You Are Closer Than I Think

This episode was just beautiful. A tale about deception and what it entails. And also a story about learning to see people we take for granted that are closest to us. 
It all starts with a groom left at the altar, rushing to find his bride he only finds a wedding dress on the sofa and then a message comes implying she went to Morocco, where they planned to go to as their honeymoon. So he plans to find her and talk to her so she could explain why because "find someone better than me" is not enough.
And the story applies Rashomon casus - we have two versions of the truth.
Ujin met Seoyeon through his radio show - he's the host and Suntaek and Taec in his cameo role are his assistants. So after nice comments left by the listener called "Fennec Fox", he got intrigued and the meeting was arranged. And that's how the relationship started that 6 months later would end with her running from her own wedding.
As it turns out, a girl who claims to be Seoyeon approaches Ujin, trying to explain everything. According to her, it was her who fell for him but was reluctant to meet because she feels she's not pretty. So she asked Hong Taera to pretend to be her. Everyone would predict how this would end. Taera genuinely fell for Ujin. However it turns out that Seoyeon also created a lie she started to believe in, because it was easier for her. Taera asked her to ghost-write messages to Ujin as her. The misunderstandings would go on if not for Doyoung, a photographer, who schemed a meeting between those three. And Ujin could get to know the woman he fell in love with, the real Taera.
And Seoyeon's greatest flaw was not realizing that someone who genuinely knew everything about her and cared for her was so close, she didn't see him.
Side note: I want someone to look at me the way Doyoung looked at (the real) Seoyeon. Marvelous.


Episode 4: Waltzing Alone

This episode tired me the most, to be honest. The title is actually giving away a bit spoiler - it's really hard, bordering on impossible to dance the waltz alone. Minseon and Geonhui met during the dance class and after some bumps they became a pair. Then they spent 8 years together, but the life struggles made them drift apart and they really ended up broken at the very end.
It's a story about people who slowly grow apart, and even moments of intimacy can't keep them satisfied. 
After years spent as the temporary workers, they finally got offered interviews for a permanent position at the HR and they both went for it. And knowing that the company would hire two people they were elated when they got the information they passed the interviews. But then another call came, inviting them to the third interview - the company reduced the vacancies to only one slot and that drove a wedge they never recovered from. She explicitly asked him to not go to that interview. The next day, seeing she lost consciousness on the subway stairs, he clenched his fists and went for the interview, almost hoping she would be late. Minseon managed to come on time and only when she went into the elevator, Geonhui saw what he didn't back on the stairs - the blood on her neck and collar. 
But it was already too late for both of them.
Thing is, 3 years later they met up again at the company, turned out both became successful and Geonhui who didn't pass that last interview got the job right after that. And their smiles faded into ugly crying as soon as they bid their goodbye.

Episode 5: The Last Week of Madam Jung

At first I thought the "last" in the title would be the final, terminal. The last episode of KBS DS 2017 hurt me, so I wanted to be careful. Turns out - it's not that kind of "last". Madam Jeong is a swindler and a thief. One day, during the police raid, she managed to escape with a gangster's money. He went to jail and an APB was issued after her.
She meticulously managed to avoid the public eye, living entirely at one flat, not going out, working from home and waiting until her APB will expire.
And a week before that she encountered Eunmi, a little girl living next door. A girl who was being abused by her step-father with the silent treatment from her mother. 
And one day, due to some gangster commotion, Madam Jeong runs from her flat and Eunmi tags along. They become friends, but the girl's step-father says that Madam kidnapped his daughter. So of course Madam Jeong has to not only avoid Ddaengbari, who has found her, but also the police.
And on the last day before her APB expires, she's caught.
But the good thing came out of it - Eunmi is taken from her abusive parents, she attends school and her step-father goes to jail for insurance claims in which he used the girl and caused her physical harm.

Episode 6: Kang Duk-Soon's Love History

At first it looked boring, if I have to be honest. Yet another story of a country girl who can't read and has only a mind for a guy she was promised to marry. But then the direction took a sharp turn and it was no longer about the searching for a guy who deserted you. Seoksam leaves the village he lives at and Deoksun he's to marry. He gives her a piece of paper with his address just in case, explaining he is going to fight for Korea's freedom. So she goes into the town to look for him. Then she falls into troubles when in the tavern full of Japanese officers she loudly asks if anyone knows any freedom fighters.
But the girl learns quickly, also how to read and write - mainly thanks to Gukhui, a four years younger than her, but already involved in an independence underground against Japanese occupation. When Dukseon asks her to write the name of Seoksam in hangeul so that she could memorize it, Gukhui writers her own and says that she should feel more independent, liberated from being a girl who longs for a boy who didn't want her. And one day Gukhui dies after being shot by Japanese officers when trying to deliver a message. This changes Dukseon completely - she wants to get more involved with the movement.
And on a day of a coup planned with one of the communist independence fighters, Dukseon meets Seoksam holding a baby in front of the targeted hotel, so she kidnaps the baby and runs, this way saving both the baby and Seoksam. For how long, not sure as he lands in jail, under interrogation. Then he says it's better to be a weak person than a coward. 
And that would be the perfect summary of the whole episode about female fighters, finding a goal in life, and standing up.

Episode 7: The Bad Family

I have seen weird things in my almost 10-year long affair with DS but this... this definitely is one of the weirdest.This is why it also has the most screenshots out of the whole bunch because... I honestly have troubles describing the plot. The hour was so packed with issues and themes I didn't realize the episode ended, so I watched again.

The bad family here is rather a matrix for lots of families, Korea or not. Its main theme is the marriage as the completely failed institution protecting nothing and giving nothing to anyone involved. It snarls at in-laws thinking they can drop on their kids any time they want without a slightest regard whether they maybe inconvenience the entire family.

It starts with the family riding in a tiny car with the oldest kid, a son abused in the military to the point of a brain damage and a heavy trauma, so he was discharged. The short talk about why her parents are actually married sets the entire table for this episode.
Then Nana is being rebellious in class and reprimanded by her homeroom teacher (Park Seunghun is wonderful here) - he tries to call her father but the man is actually in the middle of a spat with his boss and is being dragged out of his office. Then he tries to call her mother but she rejects the call, being focused and sexually aroused by watching a show with very oiled up and very muscular men. 
Then, she starts an affair with a man met in the restaurant (where also Eunsu, Nana's cowardly yet also rebellious boyfriend works). So all of them meet when the whole family lands at the police station.
They will land there once again, after Nana's short lived part-time work at the club where his father goes with his boss after he promises to not get involved with the workers' union and this way gets his old job back. The police mistakes her father for a prospective client, and since she's a minor... you can guess what happens next.

There is also one important issue this episode touches (weird choice) upon - woman's sexuality. From the parents' talk we know they regret getting married so early. Myeonghwa was just 18 when she got Minguk, so they had a shotgun wedding and then just stayed in a loveless marriage out of the obligation and kids.
Plus, she has her sexual appetite and her husband doesn't want to have sex, so she seeks the outlets for her energy. And how the society stigmatizes woman's libido and sexual freedom is best shown inside the taxi - when Myeonghwa talks on the phone with a friend and frankly admits she wants to sleep with someone else. The taxi driver mutters something about the "crazy woman". So when she finally breaks down and meets with Nana's teacher, they end up at the hotel and when the next morning they try to sneak out, the whole family shows up because... she took him to the hotel where her husband and a son work.
And the chaos ensues.

I am really glad that the normalcy they all achieved when they stopped pretending - Myeonghwa separated from them and moved to Busan for her new work, Jeongguk went back to being a union activist, Minguk doesn't have to force himself to work with people and Nana does whatever she wants. Jeongguk even mentions that they should have used protection so they wouldn't be as unhappy and messed up as they are now. Myeonghwa regrets having kids and she's quite honest about that. 
So yes, I really, really liked that episode.

Episode 8: The Reason We Can't Sleep

I really liked that one too - a little story about what it means to deal with failures and pursuing the dreams and plans. One girl moves back in with her parents after the theater project she was involved with since studies goes under and she becomes jobless. She's stressed and on edge, and worse - can't sleep because a neighbor jump ropes at 3am in the middle of an alley because he's addicted to energy drinks (in the convenience store there's an add featuring Jang Dongyun, which I find hilarious in the galaxy of KBS DS episodes). They slowly get to know each other. Turns out he works part-time at the convenience store but still hopes for his break as the comic book artist. He's exploited by one guy at the company, as he says: "you're volunteering your talent", which is a classic explanation when companies don't want to pay the artists. Youngjae draws a comic story about the zombies who go to work, therapy and actually there's no big difference between them and a human society, behaving like zombies as well. Youngjae lives with his roommate, a student of medicine doing his residency who does whatever he can to avoid his girlfriend who unapologetically asks Youngjae what is going on with Seokhun because he doesn't want to have sex with her. And one day, Seokhun strips bare (literally) the reason - he can't get it up. And Ji-u guesses why - since she mentioned marriage. So she leaves, and Seokhun explains that he really loves her, but feels the burden of his entire situation.
Both Yujeong and Youngjae struggle to keep with their own situation, and after a spat they even decide to have some angry sex in the motel, but when the action starts - Youngjae heart stops.
Turns out he has arrhythmia, and Yujeong is kinda pissed that the moments he described as "my heart beats heavy for you" were caused by his illness.
But they finally made up -in a cute and sweet scene among the recyclable paper trash. Because they also felt like trash, until they met.

Episode 9: Slow


This is a story I did not understand fully, maybe because I really have no knowledge about the baseball. It's actually a little short story about a high school baseball player who somehow remains in the confines of his own physique, unable to move forward. So he tries and trains as much as he can, accumulating a whole plethora of weird jinxes and behaviors, supposedly helping him to focus and succeed. And one day a cello sound makes him very focused so he adds Jeongyeon, a cello player, to his lucky phenomena that help him focus and strike really well.
When she's on the tribunes watching the play - he's in another headspace with a cello sound and the game he played when she was watching made him promoted to the squad for the next game.
And the next game she couldn't attend, and when she appeared, it was lost anyway. 
And at some point he was starting to see that the baseball was not everything and exerting himself to the point of risking his life was not worth it because he could not overcome certain limitations of his own body.

Kwak Dongyeon in his best element - a man shut in his own bundle of signs, as one of the most nebulous and complex characters here.

Episode 10: Buzzcut Love

We meet Jiyul at the hair salon where she asks for an inch long haircut and a bright orange color. Which of course is met with confusion by her parents, especially that she announces she also left her job at the kindergarten. Her one dream is to ride a hot air balloon.
One day, dragging the suitcase at the hospital visit of her friend, she sees her ex-boyfriend who's married and with her pregnant wife. We learn in a bitter talk later that they broke up because the future father-in-law promised him a pharmacy to run, so he chose the better option.
And when trying to hide so that he wouldn't see her, Jiyul gets involved with Chihwan causing his sugar nuna to misunderstand the situation. They strike a deal - he will help her get the revenge on her ex, and she will explain the situation to Jaehui, so that Chihwan will be in favors again. And boy, they prepare a great revenge and Chihwan plays adoring boyfriend to the point of jealousy. And only a child ruins it all pulling the wig out of the Jiyul's head. She's going to hold her end of the bargain so they go to the hospital to talk with Jaehui - but actually her husband greets them in her room, so both of them run as fast as they could. 
That not everything is OK is made apparent when Jiyul faints after leaving Chihwan's car and he takes her to the hospital when he learns about her brain tumor. 
And in a complete shift from his usual activities, Chihwan realizes that he genuinely fell for her. 
And I firmly believe she undergoes the chemotherapy and now that she has something and someone to live for - she can beat the cancer. I don't accept any other answer.
Because I so enjoyed that episode.


As with all KBS Drama Specials (almost) - it's on youtube.