Closing – 4 Hopes for Just Between Lovers

I finally finished Just Between Lovers, so it’s time to look back and see whether or not the show fulfilled my hopes and dreams. (Spoiler alert: It did, in so many lovely ways.)

Kang-doo is not an asshole to Moon-soo. He could be prickly and blunt and sometimes said things she needed to hear but didn’t want to, but otherwise he spent the rest of the show making heart eyes at her and convinced he wasn’t good enough for her. Kang-doo never talked shit about her job or her trauma or her family or her, and it’s so easy to fall head-over-heels for a guy who is head-over-heels in love with someone else. As Moon-soo said, he was always on her side, and that’s something I will forever be happy about.

Kang-doo actually has something of substance to offer Moon-soo. It only took a few episodes to realize that Kang-doo was entirely willing to do his fair share of the emotional labor in their relationship, and it was wonderful. He cared about her and wanted her to be happy, just as much as she wanted him to be happy. Kang-doo proved himself worthy of Moon-soo’s love, and I felt like they were an evenly matched couple.

Moon-soo gets to have relationships with other women. Her mother was a major (and frequently negative) force in her life, but it was usually clear that they loved one another. On top of that, Moon-soo’s friend, Wan-jin, was always ready to fight people for her and to encourage Moon-soo to do this whole love and dating thing. We even got a cute, almost-mentorship between her and So-mi, though that should have been fleshed out much more.

Moon-soo is respected at her work. Except for that one team lead who insinuated she was getting her jobs based on sex appeal as opposed to talent, everyone in the office respected Moon-soo and her abilities. And Moon-soo shut down that team lead quite easily, so that was refreshing. I’m extremely happy that she was able to flex her design muscles with the memorial park.

So what did you think? Did Just Between Lovers fulfill your expectations? Let me know!


4 Hopes for Mother

I love Lee Bo-young, and I’m particular fond of Lee Bo-young in fiercely protective and/or maternal roles, so I was thrilled to find out she was cast in Mother. I haven’t seen the Japanese original (no spoilers, please!), so I’m heading into this with just a premise and some high expectations. Here are four things I hope Mother delivers on:

  1. Ja-young’s abuse isn’t pinned on her single mother status. Single mothers already have enough uphill battles to face in Korea that the last thing I want is to see Ja-young’s single mother status being trotted out as the reason for her abuse of Hye-na, especially since men are more often abusers. She can (and should be) portrayed as a terrible person for abusing Hye-na; her single mother status shouldn’t be one of the things that make her terrible.
  2. The show tackles the social and cultural failures of preventing child abuse. There are a lot of reasons why child abuse goes underreported and even unpunished, and I want this show to dive deep into all of it. I want to see how the whole system fails Hye-na to the point where Soo-jin thinks the best course of action is to literally kidnap her from her mother.
  3. Hye-na is able to make decisions that are respected by Soo-jin. It’s important to me that this abused little girl is able to figure out what makes her happy and what she wants out of a mother. I don’t want her to be trading one tyrant for another.
  4. Soo-jin gets to explore both the good and the bad about motherhood. It’s great that she wants to swoop in and save the day, but there’s more to motherhood than impulsive heroics. The bad, the sad, the boring, the frustrating, the happy, the joyful—I want a full spectrum of what it’s like to be responsible for a small human being.

Will you be watching Mother? What are your hopes for the show?


Closing – 4 Hopes for While You Were Sleeping

For the most part, I am content with While You Were Sleeping. I got most of what I asked for, if not always in the precise way I wanted it:

Jae-chan is kind to Hong-joo. I am happy to report that he was. He didn’t believe her about prophetic dreams at first and was eager not to take responsibility for his precognition, but he wasn’t ever cruel to her. At most he was petty, and even then it was an ineffectual, childish sort of petty. Most of the time he was making heart eyes at her and trying not to get caught.

Hong-joo’s dreams obey rules (that we can learn) and do not break them. Well…yes? Kind of? The dreams seemed incredibly arbitrary about what kind of events warranted prophetic dreams. Apparently Hong-joo had a lot of them about Jae-chan and his brother’s boring day-to-day life. And we never got to find out why Hong-joo started dreaming or why her dreams were contagious, but at least the way the contagion spread followed the rules the characters were able to figure out. I wanted this to be cleverer than it turned out to be, so I’m a tiny bit disappointed, but I technically got what I asked for.

Hong-joo gets to have a close relationship with her mother. Another yes, and while I wish there had been more on-screen scenes of Hong-joo and her mother together, without either of the boys, it was very clear just how much the two ladies loved each other.

Hong-joo and Jae-chan become a real team. They did indeed! Even passing information to the other’s past self via quick thinking in the future. However, I will note that as the series went along, Hong-joo’s did tend to default to the support role of having the crucial dream and passing it on to Jae-chan, who did the in-person heroics. Despite that, they very much depended on and valued each other, so I’m calling this about fifty-fifty out of what I wanted.

Additionally, I am a little disappointed that the second half of the story was mostly focused on Jae-chan and his court cases. He ended up with a larger portion of the emotional stakes at the end, and Hong-joo’s relevance faded in comparison. I’m also sad that she didn’t get to have a moment where she considered how she had been mislead by Yoo-beom and ended up whipping up popular opinion against an innocent man. I wanted her to reflect on the ways she had made mistakes, much like Jae-chan did on the prosecutors’ behalf. That’s the beat I needed her to have for her emotional arc to be concluded, and I’m sad it didn’t happen.

How did While You Were Sleeping hold up against your expectations?


My Kdrama Hopes for 2018

I spent some time yesterday contemplating what my perfect version of dramaland would look like, and that morphed into a general list of hopes for the new year. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of what I want from dramaland in 2018:

  • Heroines who have more than one important woman in their life (friends, family, co-workers, etc.).
  • Minor actresses being paired with minor actors instead of with adult men.
  • Female characters who call out male characters on their shit.
  • Fantasy/Sci-Fi that actually takes its mythology/technology seriously and doesn’t abandon it partway through.
  • Well-rounded LGBTQIA characters.
  • CPR being used for its intended purpose and not for a romantic moment.
  • Children who call out their parents on their shit.
  • Competent villains who pose a serious threat to the heroes.
  • Mothers being addressed by name and not just as “so-and-so’s mother.”
  • Prickly, angry, unlikeable women who get shit done and inspire someone to fall in love with them.
  • Actors who have been accused of sex crimes not being cast in anything at all.
  • College dramas.
  • Crime/procedural dramas with more than one female character on the team.
  • Female geniuses who get to be undisputed masters in their fields.
  • Female villains who are evil because of something else besides love and have dedicated minions.
  • Heroes who are gentle, kind, compassionate and have a never-ending supply of heart eyes for the people they love.
  • Good, supportive parents who want the best for their children, even if they disagree about what the best thing is.
  • Noona romances.
  • Heroines over the age of 35 in weeknight programming (not just in the weekend family dramas).

What do you hope dramaland brings you in 2018?


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:


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”


4 hopes for Just Between Lovers

Winter has put me in a mood, one that I think would be well-suited for a melodrama. I’m crossing my fingers that Just Between Lovers will be precisely what I need to bring a bit of warmth into these below-freezing days. I’m unfamiliar with most of the cast and haven’t watched any of screenwriter Yoo Bo-ra’s work, though I do remember enjoying director Kim Jin-won’s stint on Nice Guy. Since I just heard about this drama a few days ago, my expectations are fairly low. Still, I have expectations—four, to be precise—that I would like to have fulfilled.

  1. Kang-doo is not an asshole to Moon-soo. He can be a jerk to basically everyone else, but this drama is being sold to me as a show in which two very wounded people find healing in one another, and for me, that means there are lines into asshole-ish-ness that he cannot ever cross. He can be prickly and emotionally distant, but I’ll be watching him closely for any sign of abusive behavior toward her. The minute he crosses my boundaries, I will be gone.
  2. Kang-doo actually has something of substance to offer Moon-soo. In a similar vein, I need Kang-doo to hold up his end of the relationship with Moon-soo. I don’t want this to be yet another story where a woman cares for and does all of the emotional labor to prove she is good enough for a mediocre man. I want to look at him and go yes, she needs you, not she can pick a guy at random and do better.
  3. Moon-soo gets to have relationships with other women. Family, friends, coworkers, neighbors—I feel like I’ve been starving lately for women interacting with each other in the media I consume. I’d really love it if there were at least one good friendship, pretty please. Will it be greedy if I ask for her to have two significant women in her life besides the dead sister?
  4. Moon-soo is respected at her work. I would just like to see a lady in a professional setting who isn’t second-guessed all the time. Let her do the thing you hired her to do and just get out of her way, all right?

Will you be watching Just Between Lovers? If so, what are your hopes for it? Let me know!


4 kdramas for winter

The nights have been getting longer and the temperature has been dropping, and for me that means fuzzy blankets, boozy hot chocolate, and my favorite tv shows. If you’re looking for some heartwarming dramas this winter, you should check out (or revisit) these ones. Fabulous winter coats and uplifting endings guaranteed.


You can level several complaints at Healer: the early wire-work is worth a few raised eyebrows, a good chunk of the bad guys were barely better than low-level NPCs, coincidences abounded, the finale felt rushed, etc., but no other show came close to generating the same kind of excitement for me in 2015 as Healer.

From its adorable and believable OTP to its masterful use of flashbacks to a cheesy love song that won me over to a world populated by smart, determined, and different women, writer Song Ji-na proved that she is excellent at building characters and crafting a story the audience will care about.


Flower Boy Next Door

This well-beloved Flower Boy installment is a charming slice-of-life drama anchored by a wonderful lead couple. While many people are (rightfully) enthusiastic about the kind, caring, and quirky male lead, my love for our depressed, introverted heroine knows no bounds. Her sometimes dark, often painful, always insightful voiceovers have stuck with me after many other details have faded. The sweet romance draws out the best in both leads and makes for a memorable relationship. The “neighborhood” has a few standout characters, including a hilarious webtoon editor.

This drama stumbles in a few places, particularly in the home stretch, but it is otherwise a memorable contemporary drama.


School 2013

Though most people remember this drama for the breakout performances of its two high school leads (which was a delightfully damaged bromance), School 2013 actually has a wonderful ensemble cast. The two teachers were perfect foils for one another, and some of the best scenes in the show are when they come together to handle the administration or try to help their wayward second-year students. This drama can be unflinching in its critique of academic pressure, bullying, competition, and abusive families, but it never loses sight of the students and their futures. While I wish there had been more screen time devoted to the girls, this drama is nonetheless one of my favorites.

What’s Up

One of the rare college-centric dramas that actually focuses on school, What’s Up? features a ragtag group of incoming musical theater freshman and some of their professors and upperclassmen. Our main trio consists of a good-for-nothing scammer who decides to make something of his life after a deadly accident, an orphaned and innocent country girl unprepared to catch the attention of a talent agency, and a masked idol and illegitimate child who hides his identity in order to protect his ambitious mother. In between the hazing and musical numbers, the characters get to shine with their (occasionally doomed) romantic relationships, family drama, talent rivalries, terminal illnesses, and fights over dorm room cleanliness. It’s funny, heartfelt, and earnest in the best ways.


4 hopes for Two Cops

At the time I’m writing this, I don’t know yet if Two Cops will require the Viki Pass Plus. If it does, I won’t be watching it; if it doesn’t, I am inclined to check it out. I’ve considered myself a fan of Jo Jung-suk for years, though to date I have only completed two of his projects (What’s Up? and Fatal Encounter). I’ve seen precisely none of Hyeri’s or Hoya’s projects, and only have vague memories of Lee Shi-un in W. With that being the baseline of my expectations, here are my four hopes for the show:

  1. The romance between Dong-tak and Ji-ahn isn’t creepy/predatory. There are thirteen years between the actors, and the instant there is any hint of “better wait until she’s more grown up,” I’m bailing. It doesn’t look as if there will be any childhood portions (didn’t see anyone cast as younger versions of the MCs, at least), so I’m hoping we’ll avoid all of that entirely.
  2. Jin-ahn and her career are taken seriously. Yes, I know this is a comedy, but I would much rather the comedy focus on two men with opposite personalities in one body than in belittling the rookie reporter lady. I want her to be tough and scrappy, and even if there are wacky hijinks, I want her and her career to be valuable and important instead of an afterthought.
  3. The possession rules make sense. Look, kdrama world, I am begging you: please have your supernatural rules in order. I’m fine if the characters have to discover them along the way, and I’m okay if they’re odd-ball or quirky, but I want the supernatural to be internally consistent and not just follow the rules of narrative necessity (aka, shit we wrote ourselves into a corner and/or are too lazy to think of a solution that doesn’t contradict everything we’ve done before).
  4. Ji-ahn, Dong-tak, and Soo-chang become a formidable team. I’d love for them to tackle some kind of big bad together, utilizing everyone’s special skills/talents. Maybe an intricate con that Soo-chang plans? I don’t know, I feel like the three of them could do some pretty awesome investigations together and bring some bad guys to justice.

Are you planning to watch the show? If so, what are your hopes for it? Let me know!


5 reasons to watch Circle: Two Worlds Connected

While Circle wasn’t a perfect show, I’ve got to admit that it’s one of the stronger sci-fi kdramas I’ve run across. And as such, I do think it’s worth your time if you’ve got it to spare. Just remember you’re probably going to need to take a break every now and then—things can get intense.

1. It’s only twelve episodes.

The worst tragedy is watching a story desperately over-expand to try to fill up the space it really just isn’t meant to take. Or worse, endlessly recycle plot points or going off the rails because they have to use up every single one of their weeks because the next show literally hasn’t started filming yet. The writer, director, network, and anyone else involved in calling the shots on the length for this show made an excellent decision to limit it to just twelve episodes. Any further, and it would have required pointless plot twists or lumbering B-plots to take up air time. Circle knew where it wanted to go, and it went there in a timely fashion, for the most part. Continue reading “5 reasons to watch Circle: Two Worlds Connected”


4 hopes for Avengers Social Club

Still no word yet (that I can find) about whether or not this will be licensed somewhere, but I’d like to watch it. It has been a long time since I’ve watched a kdrama centered on middle-aged ladies, and I’m always a sucker for a well-deserved revenge, so this could be exactly my thing. If, you know, someone picks it up. In the meantime, here are four things I hope will happen:

  1. Jung-hye and Mi-sook will leave their husbands. Look, life’s too short to waste it telling yourself a piece of trash will cease to be a piece of trash, and I am exceptionally done with kdramas were male relatives/lovers/whatever are forgiven for basically everything under the sun. Once these two get their revenge (for “betrayal” and domestic violence, respectively), I want them to get the hell out of Dodge. Permanently.
  2. We get lots of social commentary about the expectations of women in society and how they intersect with class. Jung-hye’s the chaebol daughter who did her best in a business marriage as a housewife, Mi-sook’s a housewife and an orphan whose husband has a respected career, and Do-hee sounds like she could be lower middle class/working class as a widowed fishseller at a traditional market. This setup is ripe for an exploration of feminist and classist issues, and I hope the writers go headlong into it.
  3. The ladies become BFFs. Okay, maybe this is gimme with this setup, but I’m paranoid, okay? They don’t have to like each other right away, but by the end of this, I want the three of them to totally be ready to bury bodies for each other and provide alibis.
  4. Soo-kyum doesn’t overtake the narrative. I’ve only seen him in one poster, so I hope he stays in a similarly small portion of the story. I’m worried that he might overtake Jung-hye’s revenge scheme considering they’re targeting at least one of the same people. Let her shine, Soo-kyum. You can help her out, but don’t take over her status as the lead.

Will you be watching the show? If so, what are your hopes for it?