4 kdramas that deserve a do-over

AKA the shows that had so much potential but ended up falling short of greatness. Look, I won’t pretend to know why each of these shows face-planted (though I’m certain that the liveshoot system played into several of the failures), but I’m always going to be sad that they did. If I had the chance, these are the four dramas I would grant a do-over:

#1 – Faith

What was great: The cast was wonderful, and I adored the romance between the leads (and the second leads). The heroine was also one of the few female time-travelers in dramaland, and she was a delight. It was a fun look into a less-common drama period, too.

What went wrong: The show needed to be four to eight episodes shorter than it was as it ended up going in circles toward the end. Magical abilities were inconsistently applied and a real-life injury forced the abrupt departure of one of the supporting cast members. The finale wasn’t foreshadowed well.

How to fix it: Cut the show down to 16 or 20 episodes and either figure out consistent magic rules or entirely scrap all magic except the time travel portal. Give us a better heads up for the ending. Continue reading “4 kdramas that deserve a do-over”


4 Hopes for The King Loves

I’ll be honest, this show really wasn’t on my radar—ugh, another historical love triangle that will probably end in death—until news broke that Song Ji-na had become the main writer for the drama. I’ve been waiting two and a half years for her to be back in drama land, and I’m excited. Please, please don’t let me down. These are the four things I want out of this show:

  1. Wang Won and Wang Rin are both viable love interests. The greatest failing of many a love triangle is how hard it is to convince the audience (read: me) that the potential love interests have an equal chance of making the heroine blissfully happy. If I am not genuinely torn about who she should pick in the end, the triangle has failed and is a waste of screen time.
  2. Eun San gets to be something more than a prize. Please make her a character in her own right with emotional arcs and plots independent of the boys. Let her noes—and her yeses—be respected, and allow her to choose who, if anyone, she wants to be with in the end.
  3. The trio has a convincing friendship. Look, if you’re going to frame the romance as the tragedy(?) that tears a trio apart, make sure I actually mourn the friendship. And no, framing it as a bromance with a lady tossed in for flavor every now and then absolutely doesn’t count. Give me friendship equality or don’t bother.
  4. The politics are interesting. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always get the nuances of what happens in the palace, but we’ve got royalty and an ambitious crown prince—politics will surely be in play. Few things kill my enthusiasm for sageuks as boring politics, so if we do end up with a lot of the, please make them of the high-stakes variety.

Will you be watching The King Loves? What are your hopes for the show?


Closing – Four Hopes for Circle: Two Worlds Connected

Now that Circle is over, it’s time to revisit my four original hopes for the show and see just how the actual drama measured up.

Han Jung-yeon has a plot/character arc of her own. While we never actually got to the whole hey why did you come to earth in the first place mystery, I am happy to report that Jung-yeon was a character with agency and an active role in the story. She was one of my favorite characters, and I’m thrilled she held her own on screen with everyone else.

The show tackles the Smart/General Earth divide in a way that provides commentary on the real world. Not at all, actually. The closest they got was the responsibility lectures (and some of the villains still weaseled out of that), but that fell short of what I actually wanted. Nothing about privilege or class or just what sort of horrors a society will permit in exchange for security. I didn’t get my Omelas reference, either.

The future feels appropriately futurish. I’m going to have to give this one a no, too. We’ve seen the projection screens, black-and-white aesthetic, and transparent/glass stuff everywhere before–for the last fifteen or so years, at least. The cars looked like 2017 models, 97% of people in power were male, etc. Beyond the existence and implementation of the Stable Care System, very little thought was put into the rest of the world. What impact would a system that represses strong negative emotion actually look like? Why wasn’t there more crime (because, let’s face it, people can and do commit plenty of crimes without strong emotions being anywhere in the vicinity)? How did the Smart/Normal Earth populations view each other? None of it was thought out beyond the initial sketching out, which is a shame.

The mystery is a fearful, delightful ride. Solid job on this one, minus a few blips. Part one was definitely stronger in that regard than part two was, but I was still left screeching over many cliffhangers.

What did you think of Circle? How did it compare to your own hopes at the beginning of the show?


5 Kdramas You Should Marathon This Summer

Because it is too damned hot to go outside during the bulk of the daylight hours–at least in my neck of the woods. I’m going to stay inside where it’s air conditioned and I have plenty of snacks to sustain me while marathoning.

#1 Arang and the Magistrate (2012)

From a strict world-building point-of-view, Arang and the Magistrate is the best fantasy kdrama I’ve ever watched. The world, based on a famous folktale, feels magical, and its fantastical elements are grounded by winning performances from its cast. While I think it could have been a little tighter if two episodes were shaved off, the drama generally maintains its fast pace and keeps a clear focus on the mystery of Arang’s murder and the search for Eun-oh’s mother. Watching the lead couple fall in love is a treat, and the high stakes in their search for truth only enhances their romance. Be prepared for comedy, drama, and tragedy in this exciting historical fantasy.

#2 I Hear Your Voice (2013)

This was a mishmash of genres and tropes that honestly sounded like a disaster on paper: a mind-reader, a courtroom drama, a one-sided childhood love, a childhood rivalry/competition carrying over to adulthood, and a killer bent on revenge. Luckily, there was some magic holding all these pieces together. Even though awful things happened to our characters, I Hear Your Voice was astonishingly relentless in its optimism and sympathy for other people, even terrible ones. Character development arcs for the leads cemented our main pair as one of my very few kdrama OTPs. The drama suffered mildly from its two-episode extension, but I can’t even really hold it against the show when that allowed it to develop a touching character arc for a secondary character.


#3 Two Weeks (2013)

I’m a sucker for redemption stories, and Tae-san had such a wonderful character arc that he’s one of the few absent fathers I have ever rooted for. The deadline to his bone marrow donation for his daughter put real weight behind his desperate attempts to evade both the bad guys and the police in order to stay alive (and healthy) long enough to get to the hospital. Over the course of the show, he earned the allies he needed to go from being a panicked fugitive to a trickster ready to bring the villains down. The supporting characters were amazing, I’m genuinely disappointed this drama didn’t end with an OT3. It was so close! #TeamHappyFamily

#4 Heartless City (2013)

If you’re looking for a cops vs. gangsters drama with a dark and gritty noir atmosphere, look no further than Heartless City. From a slick score to brutal fight scenes to corruption on all levels, this drama is an entertaining ride. The biggest draw for this show (aside from the soundtrack and cinematography) is the enigmatic and well-dressed Doctor’s Son and his two closest supporters. While the show does suffer from sidelining its heroine and its sometimes too-convoluted-for-its-own-good plot twists/character reveals, it is one of the best crime-themed kdramas I’ve had the chance to watch. Give it a shot when you need a break from trendy romantic comedies.



#5 Secret Love Affair (2014)

Are you in the mood for an unforgettable drama about a woman who found herself trapped in a cage of her own making by sacrificing her morals and time and youth in order to acquire wealth and prestige? Are you in the mood to watch her rediscover her love of music, crave quiet moments of happiness, and find passion and desire with the help of a much younger man? Secret Love Affair boasted one of the smartest scripts in 2014, and its detailed camerawork and gorgeous soundtrack ensured that the audience paid attention to every detail. Kim Hee-ae and Yoo Ah-in’s performances as the two lovers were breathtaking. If you want smart, sophisticated, morally gray, and engaging storytelling, make sure you check this out.

What’s on your summer marathon list? Let me know!


4 Hopes for Seven Day Queen

It’s not often that a woman gets to be the center of a sageuk, and that alone would have probably been enough for me to be interested. But once you toss in Park Min-young and the director of Healer, you definitely get my attention. I’ll be checking out the show this weekend; in the meantime, here are the things I really want from the drama:

  1. Chae-kyung will have her own story arc. Okay, yes, I know that the whole point of this drama is going to be the tragic love story, but wouldn’t it be excellent if she had scenes that had nothing to do with either prince? I’d honestly love to see her adjusting to life as the wife of a prince, see her interactions with the other palace ladies, etc.
  2. The drama passes the Bechdel Test in 50% of its episodes. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Flower in Prison, which passed the Bechdel Test in almost every episode, but I would love it if Seven Day Queen did the same. There are a bunch of ladies listed in the cast: the eventual queen dowager, a future deposed queen, a concubine, the queen that will succeed Chae-kyung, etc. It might be hard not to talk about the despot king and his evil deeds, but surely you will all have a subject to talk about among yourselves that does not involve a man at some point. I believe in you!
  3. It is the tragedy of an era when Chae-kyung and Lee Yuk (King Jungjong) are separated. Convince me that they should make my (extremely short) kdrama OTP list and then cruelly rip them apart. I want this drama to spend the bulk of its romantic screen time showing me that these two are soulmates, that their love will conquer everything, that they are happiest when they are next to each other—and then separate them. FOREVER. Which brings me to—
  4. I want this drama to make me cry. I am 100% serious on this one. Look, this is a tragic story about thwarted true love—make me weep, dammit. Maybe not every episode, but I want to bawl at some point. Knowing me, this shouldn’t be all that high of a bar to clear (Circle almost got a tear or two already).

Is Seven Day Queen on your watch list? Have you already seen this week’s episodes? What are your hopes for the show? Let me know!


4 Hopes for Fight My Way

Honestly, Fight My Way is the drama I secretly hope will steal my heart. I am fond of both Kim Ji-won and Park Seo-joon, but I haven’t completed any of their works since 2013 and 2014, respectively. I think they could be super cute together. I am kind of desperate for them to be.

Here are my four hopes for their new show—please don’t let me down!

  1. Ae-ra and Dong-man actually feel like friends. And not just friends out of habit because they’ve always been near each other but friends because they have things in common and support one another and have fun together and even get on each other’s nerves sometimes because they know each other so well. I want lots of in-jokes and embarrassing childhood stories and them swooping in for the emotional rescue. I want their friendship to be the foundation of their romance, and I want it to be an amazing one.
  2. Ae-ra achieves her dream of becoming a tv anchor. Or, if she doesn’t, she figures out what was driving that dream and sets on a new path to fulfill the urge behind it. Sometimes part of growing up is figuring out what you really want. Maybe she really does want to be a tv anchor. Maybe there’s something about it her subconscious has latched on to. Either way, I want her to achieve a goal—and then make another.
  3. Dong-man adores Ae-ra. I saw this main couple described as bickering everywhere I looked online—but I want it to be the playful, in-good-fun sort, not the cruel, controlling sort. I want him to fall head over heels when he realizes his heart has changed. I want him to love her because of her, not in spite of it. Give me all the puppy-love looks and anguished meditations on falling in love with your friend and being terrified of ruining it.
  4. The drama provides plenty of social commentary on young adulthood. With high youth unemployment and a tepid job market, I want to see these young adults actually struggle with what it means to them, their families, and society that they’re not hitting the expected “adulthood” markers of a full-time job, marriage, and children. While my hopes aren’t high for a particularly realistic portrayal of actual poverty and housing conditions—where we would shove the product placement?—I want this struggle discussed openly and sympathetically.

Will you be watching Fight My Way? What are your hopes for the show? Let me know!


4 Hopes for Circle: Two Worlds Connected

After the utter failure that was my attempt at watching new kdramas in March, I am extremely excited to get back in the game with Circle. I absolutely adore speculative fiction, which doesn’t often pop up in kdramas, especially in science fiction form. Even though I did not finish the last dramas I tried that starred Yeo Jin-goo or Kim Kang-woo, I’m excited to have them back on screen. Along with Gong Seung-yun, whom I quite liked in Heard It Through the Grapevine.

Please don’t disappoint me in your choice of projects! Without further time-wasting, here are my four hopes for Circle: Two Connected Worlds.

  1. Han Jung-yun has a plot/character arc of her own. Okay, so maybe I’m a bit jaded and distrustful right now, but I would really love it if Jung-yun got to be significant in her own right. From what I’ve heard so far, the show may run the risk of her being a key the men use to solve the mystery as opposed to her own person. Give her a life of her own, please.
  2. The show tackles the Smart/General Earth divide in a way that provides commentary on the real world. Come on, you don’t pit an on-the-surface utopia against a dystopia and then just fail to do anything with it. (Well, you wouldn’t if you had respect for your world-building and the ways speculative fiction can be used to tackle Big Questions and turn the mirror back on the audience.) Make me believe that you’re doing this for some other reason than set-dressing and the rule of cool.
  3. The future feels appropriately futurish. And alien-ish, too, since the extraterrestrial takeover is a thing. I want it to feel like a world-upending 20 years have passed between the two timelines. Make me believe the writers cared about their world-building and all the ways the future and the present have diverged—and stayed the same.
  4. The mystery is a fearful, delightful ride. I want to be caught off guard, outwitted, and terrified for beloved characters. I want to have just enough clues to put pieces together on my own and still be surprised by what the writers come up with. I want to be invested in unraveling the mystery. Give me first-half-of-W-feels, please—just remember to care about the ending. >.>

Will you be watching Circle? What are your hopes for the show? Let me know!


4 Hopes for Chicago Typewriter

Please don’t let me down. I really would like to watch a kdrama again.

  1. The whole past lives thing has actual relevance in the modern day action. And I mean for something other than your standard thwarted romance (because I swear that’s the only reason 95% of kdramas bother to delve into past lives). Be more creative, please! Surely there can be other tragedies and unfinished business that would connect three(???) souls together across lifetimes, especially when their last lifetimes were right in the middle of the Japanese occupation. I am going to be very sad if it’s only used to establish a love triangle or something (unless it opens up a bisexual love triangle, then I’m all on board with that).
  2. Seol has more than just a romantic plotline to sustain her. I’m thrilled that she has a career, but I’m hoping that this show will actually do something with her veterinarian status—or any other aspect of her life, really, that isn’t centered on Se-joo. Let her wear multiple, relevant hats, please, and not let her get pushed out of relevancy in her own show.
  3. Seol is not the muse who magically cures Se-joo’s writer’s block. *rolls eyes forever* I hate this trope so much. Don’t do it, show.
  4. We get a lot of meta about the creative process. What’s the point of making your main character a writer and giving him writer’s block if you aren’t going to discuss creativity, talent, and effort/practice. What about deadlines, expectations, the fear of failure, self-doubt, and so on?

Will you be checking out Chicago Typewriter? What are your hopes for the show?


A Non-Exhaustive List of Things I Would Be Happy to Never See Again

March was a complete wash for me when it came to trying new kdramas. I bounced hard off of Strong Woman Do Bong-soon, Radiant Office, and Whisper. While April is a new month with new opportunities in the kdrama landscape, my cynical side keeps thinking about all the things I would be perfectly happy to never see in dramaland (or any sort of media, honestly) again:

  • Heroines without any female friends.
  • Fake rape/sexual assault accusations.
  • Rape/sexual assaults that center the love interest’s manpain over the woman who experienced it.
  • Rape/sexual assaults where the violation is swept aside because the victim “deserved” it or “must have secretly wanted it because she could have stopped him but didn’t.”
  • Physical strength being a stand-in for strength of character (both the moral fiber sense and the narrative sense) in female characters.
  • Female characters whose power levels fluctuate wildly depending on if it’s time to cram in another romantic scene and have men save them.
  • Violence against women being used solely for shock value.
  • “The fact that I lose my temper at you/yank you around/yell at you is proof of how much I love you because no one else can drive me this crazy.”
  • Procedurals where the murder victims are 99% female.
  • The glorification/exploitation of women’s dead bodies.
  • Obnoxious Subway product placement.
  • Redemption arcs for abusive/neglectful fathers.
  • Sweeping, dramatic OTP songs played during moments that are far from romantic.
  • CPR being treated as a romantic moment.
  • Cruelty and coldness being shorthand for romantic interest.
  • A person/organization constantly being touted as the best at X thing only to fundamentally fail at every aspect of X thing.
  • Heroines getting shoved out of the spotlight in their own damned stories by the heroes.
  • Second leads who exist solely to be romantic obstacles.
  • Fridged mothers, grandmothers, wives, lovers, and little sisters.
  • The fetishization of innocence and/or helplessness.
  • Stalker behavior being portrayed as romantic.
  • Speculative fiction elements that clearly haven’t been thought out completely or run by other people who enjoy speculative fiction.
  • “I’ve come this far; I can’t stop now.”
  • Female characters portrayed as bad/evil/lacking/unworthy because they don’t fit the mold of Ideal Woman (especially if they win approval only when they make progress toward that impossible ideal).

So what items are on your Do Not Want list? Do we have any in common? Let me know!


4 Hopes for Whisper

I am so excited for Lee Bo-young’s return to the small screen. Writer Park Kyung-soo’s previous drama, Punch, was a great legal thriller with engaging female characters, though they were typically secondary to the drama going on between the antihero and the main antagonist. My anticipation levels are pretty high right now, so here are my four hopes for the show:

  1. Shin Young-joo gets half of the spotlight. A few months ago, I probably would have had this as a given, but I’m still bitter about how Solomon’s Perjury sidelined its heroine. Dear PKS, please remember that the wonderful Lee Bo-young has decided to return to dramaland for this project and treat her accordingly.
  2. Shin yYung-joo gets to have several badass fight scenes. She’s the detective, dammit, and spends a lot of time with petty criminals—she should be capable of handling herself. As much as God’s Gift turned into a mess, it gave LBY several chances to show off her abilities in physically demanding/intense scenes. I want her to be the muscle in this team up with the lawyer, honestly. (They can split the brains role.)
  3. Choi Soo-yeon gets significant character development. I don’t know a ton about her character, but right now she sounds like a pretty standard Second Female Lead, Rich Bitch variety. I know this writer is capable of a lot more than that. Give me hidden depths, moral quandaries, and anything besides being possessive of things that are not hers to claim.
  4. A lot of cutting social commentary. With Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and possible prosecution looming over South Korea, I want to see a lot of pointed commentary about corruption and power and how the latter leads to the former. I want there to be an acknowledgment of  how unjust systems wreck society.

Are you looking forward to Whisper? What are your hopes for the show? Let me know!