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?


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”


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 kdramas that I wish had a second season

I know, I know—second seasons are a mixed-to-terrible bag in dramaland. Franchises seem to work better overall (see: Flower Boys series, School series), but there are a couple of dramas that I think had enough story potential for a second season. When I reviewed my completed dramas, I was actually surprised by how few of my top ten dramas (I need to update this…) made it on this list.

Then again, a lot of my top tens are top tens precisely because they completed the story they wanted to tell and I was satisfied with the ending. And while my fangirl heart might want sixteen episodes of domestic bliss and skinship, I can concede that it probably wouldn’t be the best business decision. Nevertheless, here are four dramas I would be very interested in getting a second season for, though I know it’ll never happen. Beware of show-ending spoilers! Continue reading “4 kdramas that I wish had a second season”


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?


Circle: Two Worlds Connected, Episode 12 [END]

TL;DR: You know what? Good job, everyone. That was a fun ride.

Though I had some complaints about this show during its run, I’m glad I stuck with it because it was able to pull off a mostly satisfying ending. There are few things I love as much as heroes banding together to outsmart a villain and his vastly greater resources, so this final episode was a delight. Continue reading “Circle: Two Worlds Connected, Episode 12 [END]”


Circle: Two Worlds Connected, Episode 11

TL;DR: I desperately want a reference to “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” now. Please give it to me in the final episode?

Woo-jin tried so hard in this episode and things did not turn out very well for him, which is fitting as we head into the finale. His character has consistently been in my top three through the entire show, so while I’m irritated by some of the things he did this episode, I’ve already forgiven him for basically all of it.

Continue reading “Circle: Two Worlds Connected, Episode 11”


Circle: Two Worlds Connected, Episode 10

TL;DR: The future timeline remembered how close it was to the finale and got back on track.

But before we get to that, I just want to take a moment to appreciate all the lovely emotional moments that happened in part one. With Bum-gyun’s memory quickly fading, we were able to see three people’s perspectives on happiness, identity, and memory, and I liked that there weren’t any neat answers. Continue reading “Circle: Two Worlds Connected, Episode 10”


Circle: Two Worlds Connected, Episode 9

TL;DR: There are only two people left unaccounted for in the future. I am concerned.

It took us three-fourths of the show, but we have finally uncovered the crucial step between the blue bug bots and Human B, and it was an alien’s compassion for a small boy. (Perhaps I’m reading too much into Byul’s emotional capabilities back in 2007, but I’d like to think that at that point she had figured out enough about fitting into humanity that she wanted to solve Woo-jin’s problem.) It was a sweet little moment from Woo-jin’s point-of-view, but apparently it was also the one temptation all of the nearby neuroscientists couldn’t resist.

Well, with the exception of one, that is. Maybe two, if Woo-jin counts. Continue reading “Circle: Two Worlds Connected, Episode 9”


Circle: Two Worlds Connected, Episode 8

TL;DR: I am disappointed that you chose the least interesting answer for one of the grand mysteries.

So far my greatest disappointment in Circle is the fact that the future timeline is nowhere near as emotionally engaging as the present timeline. In fact, it serves more to provide disappointing answers rather than build something worthwhile on its own. The future timeline really stalled in this episode, with way too much screen time wasted on putting people into positions instead of getting to the action. Continue reading “Circle: Two Worlds Connected, Episode 8”