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My 2017 Kdrama Review

Now that I’ve talked about the individual characters that I loved, it’s time for me to address the shows as a whole. In comparison to last year, 2017 was actually pretty decent for me. I only dropped five shows: Whisper, Strong Woman Do Bong-soon, Radiant Office, Seven Day Queen, and The King Loves. I completed five 2017 shows (four dramas and one drama special) and also looped back to watch the 2015 drama special, Splash Splash Love. And with the exception of one, I’m glad I completed all of them. Here’s how I rated them (and you can find an explanation of my ratings categories here):

Marathon it now!

Splash Splash Love (TVCast Naver/MBC | 2 episodes | December 13 to December 20, 2015)

This two-episode drama masterfully combines romantic comedy and time-traveling fantasy to give us a wonderful heroine and a cute love story. While the heroine does end up falling for a Joseon king, the story is firmly rooted in her personal character arc (and hatred of math) and centers her story without giving into the temptation to let the king overwhelm it. The comedy is clever without being cruel, and on more than one occasion I actually laughed out loud. (Shocker, I know.) But perhaps my favorite thing about it is the resolution to the heroine’s character arc and her fervent desire to go home. Spend two hours on this one—you won’t regret it.

Naked Fireman (KBS2 | 4 episodes | January 12 to January 19, 2017)

I love it when prickly ladies fall in love and are loved in return without having to rewrite their personalities. Our heroine is blunt, clever, and utterly determined to solve the mystery of her parents’ murders, while our hero is a somewhat dim comedic slacker with a good heart and an overabundance of courage. Their meet-cute is absurd—and yes, involves him being paid to take off some of his clothes—but the way they genuinely fall for one another is marvelous. I’ve seen dramas that can’t compete with this romance despite having four times the number of episodes. If you need something short and cute with a thriller second half, try this.

Save Me (OCN | 16 episodes | August 5 to September 24, 2017)

I went into this show worried that the heroine’s story would quickly be co-opted by the quartet of boys trying to save her, but they never made her pain and trauma about them. Instead, the boys suffered for the heroine in her quest to escape a religious cult, and in spite the many ways in which the villains tried to break her, she never gave up. Watching the good guys join forces to uncover the corruption in their town—and just how loved ones were complicit in it—was as emotionally taxing as it was satisfying. You’ll need to take this one slow, but you should definitely watch it.

Bump it up your watch list.

Circle (tvN | 12 episodes | May 22 to June 27, 2017)

The worst storytelling tragedy is watching a show desperately over-expand to try to fill up space it really just isn’t meant to take. But this drama knew where it wanted to go, and its interconnected mysteries across three separate timelines kept the momentum going when a longer, more unwieldy show would have languished. The 2017 timeline is by far the most compelling (and had the most shriek-worthy cliffhangers), while the future timeline frequently struggled to find its emotional footing. The show’s greatest weaknesses were in extrapolating the implications of the central technology/mystery and its limited number of female characters. Nonetheless, it is a solid show that sci-fi fans should check out.

While You Were Sleeping (SBS | 32 mini episodes | September 27 to November 16, 2017)

I wanted a grander, wider-reaching story than the one I got, but that’s what happens when you promise me prophetic dreamers who want to change the futures they dream of. If I ignore what I wanted this show to be and instead judge it based on what was actually offered to me, this was a good fantasy romance about two people finding each other again after childhood tragedy and growing to love one another. And in that, it delivered on almost every level. While I have and could continue to nitpick about various storytelling choices and lack of development for some characters, I don’t regret spending sixteen hours of my life on this show.

I would advise against it.

Solomon’s Perjury (JTBC | 12 episodes | December 16, 2016, to January 28, 2017)

I’m always going to be bitter that this show lied about the heroine being the protagonist. She was great whenever she wasn’t sidelined by the hero, but even then her investigation into the death of one of her classmates was hampered at every turn by the hero withholding information from her with very little reason. In a change from many other school dramas, several of the adults are good people with the kids’ best interests at heart. There were some great characters and moments, but in the end this show ultimately fell apart when it became clear it didn’t care about its heroine at all.


So now that you’ve seen my rankings, what were your favorite dramas this year?

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My Favorite 2017 Kdrama Characters

Since it’s the end of the year, I (like so many others) thought it would be fun to look back over what 2017 dramaland brought us. As always, it was a mixed bag (more on that in tomorrow’s post), but there were some excellent shows and characters. In no particular order, here’s a brief rundown of my favorite characters this year:

FEMALE CHARACTERS

Im Sang-mi from Save Me

Okay, look, I have so much adoration for Sang-mi. She survived a fucking cult and managed to get her mother out of it, too, in spite of basically every other adult around her being evil and/or useless and/or in the cult’s pocket. Including her father, whose true believer-ness turned him into an outright monster. Sang-mi endured multiple people attempting to break her spirit so she would submit to a predator and take her spot in a doomsday church—and in the end, she helped break that organization instead. Continue reading “My Favorite 2017 Kdrama Characters”

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While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 31 & 32 [END]

TL;DR: How dare you make me cry.

While I have some quibbles with the finale, overall, While You Were Sleeping had a satisfying ending that wrapped up most everything satisfactorily. Sometimes it’s good to just have a show where the good guys are good and triumph in the end, knowing that even if it cost them some pain, they’ll still turn out all right in the end. Continue reading “While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 31 & 32 [END]”

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While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 29 & 30

TL;DR: I really should have seen that coming.

Sometimes Yoo-beom can get things right. Yet even when he gets one over on Joo-wan, his follow-through is weak. He is only capable of making one plan at a time, and when that one scheme doesn’t go exactly as planned, his façade cracks. It’s impressive that he’s gotten away with his shit for so long—but then again, he’s only been out as a private attorney for about a year, so in retrospect, he hasn’t really gotten away with it much, has he? Continue reading “While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 29 & 30”

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While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 27 & 28

TL;DR: Well, that’s a great cliffhanger for finale week. Thank goodness I don’t have to wait.

So one of the things I’ve noticed about Yoo-beom is that he is very confident in his own intelligence and abilities—but he’s also easily shaken. If you set out to flatter his ego at all, you can completely distract him from your purpose. He truly thinks himself as better than pretty much everyone else (see: all the times he has called his clients some form of trash), but he has committed serious crimes of his own. A truly clever man—and not one convinced of his own cleverness—would not be at all at ease after receiving those creeper texts. And yet Hong-joo was able to manipulate him easily because he is entirely ready and willing to believe that someone who doesn’t even like him would come to him for his opinion. Continue reading “While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 27 & 28”

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Just Between Lovers, Episode 4

TL;DR: Savor this cute stage while you can. This is a melo, after all.

Right now our leads are in the getting-to-know-you phase, and it’s adorable. Moon-soo is delightfully curious about Kang-doo and who he is, while he is piecing together the clues that say she is the girl who was trapped with him in the collapse. But most importantly, when Kang-doo pointed out that Moon-soo’s determination to satisfy her curiosity in spite of his own feelings was a form of violence, she apologized. Now the two of them are falling into a pattern where they’ll ask questions—and then let it go if the other doesn’t want to answer. That will make their eventual opening up to each other all the sweeter, because that will be an unequivocal demonstration of trust. Continue reading “Just Between Lovers, Episode 4”

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Just Between Lovers, Episode 3

TL;DR: Our leads are getting so close to figuring out their shared trauma and yet they are so far away.

I don’t know about you, but I’m very excited that our leads are inching closer to the truth about their shared trauma. It feels like each time we have a flashback about the building collapse, we learn more about what happened to Moon-soo and Kang-doo. This time we find out they actually came face-to-face underground. The question now becomes, just how much of that does Moon-soo remember? Continue reading “Just Between Lovers, Episode 3”

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While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 25 & 26

TL;DR: I ask about eighty billion questions, and I’m hoping they’re all answered soon.

I feel like it has been a long time since I’ve seen a male lead so uncertain about his work. Dramaland is no stranger to a plethora of male geniuses who get by on the-end-justifies-the-means results and assholery, but Jae-chan is keenly aware of the many ways in which he lacks. From embarrassing moments to social blunders to just being terribly slow with paperwork, he leaves so much to be desired that everyone agreed it would be way better for Hong-joo to shadow anyone but him on a day at the job. Meanwhile, Hong-joo is respected at work, and her colleagues generally think she has good ideas and a keen sense of finding and pitching stories. So it was nice that this episode took a moment to delve into Jae-chan’s insecurities and how, sometimes, the things that make him awful at his job are also an asset.

(Except for the typos.) Continue reading “While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 25 & 26”

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While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 23 & 24

TL;DR: Park Hye-ryun’s weakness with legal issues strikes again.

Writer Park is many things, but a great dramatist when it comes to the law, she is not. I probably wouldn’t have commented on it, except I’ve already seen her attempts at lawyer-y things in I Hear Your Voice, so it’s slightly disappointing that she’s still sticking to these kinds of obvious cases. (Then again, she’s really good at making the cases matter to her main characters’ emotional arcs, so I’m going to let some of it slide.) Continue reading “While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 23 & 24”

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While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 21 & 22

TL;DR: Does South Korea have a HIPPA equivalent? Cuz if they do, there’s about eighty billion people I need to file a complaint against.

Okay, as much as I like this show, it isn’t always subtle, and the use of two paths as a visual representation of Jae-chan’s impossible choice was as obvious as the fact that he would end up taking a third option. Nonetheless, the in-universe stakes (momentarily) felt high, and I am content with what has been presented so far. Mostly. Continue reading “While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 21 & 22”