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:

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”

5 reasons to watch Naked Fireman

Don’t lie now—you know that the title of this drama special totally caught your attention. I originally went into this show expecting the absurd. And while I got that in spades, I also got a heaping dose of believable romance, found families, and an exciting thriller. Here are five reasons you should watch Naked Fireman the next time you have a spot open on your to-watch list:

1. The prickly, jaded heroine and innocent hero fall in love.

I love it when prickly ladies fall in love and are loved in return without having to completely wipe and rewrite their personalities. Jin-ah is blunt, clever, and utterly determined to solve the mystery of her parents’ murders. Even though she is still very traumatized over the whole thing (and is receiving treatment for it, and not shamed for needing it!), she throws herself headfirst into investigating based on the clue she recently remembered via therapy. And while she goes from distrusting Cheol-soo to being deeply in love with him in just four episodes, the incremental thawing of her heart and budding belief in his innocence is magnificent.

Cheol-soo, in the meantime, is a comedic slacker, who isn’t always quick on the uptake but nonetheless has a good heart and more courage than he probably should. Yes, he’ll trust his con artist and thief of a friend with basically everything up to in and including his life, and he’ll also put himself in embarrassing situations to help his father figure receive life-saving medical treatment. He’s the hero with a heart of gold who rises to the occasion and falls head-over-heels for the rich woman who is only supposed to be spending time with him to draw him shirtless. Continue reading “5 reasons to watch Naked Fireman”

Naked Fireman, Episode 4 [END]

TL;DR: Awww, that was cute. Good job, everyone.

It’s just so refreshing when a show doesn’t fail you in the finale. This episode kept its focus squarely on the two most important things: taking down the bad guy and getting Cheol-soo and Jin-ah together. Everything else—Seong-jin and Song-ja’s relationship, Kwang-ho’s cancer—all took a back seat. There were more important things to tackle, and the episode was all the better for it (while also giving us just enough to be content with its happy ending). Continue reading “Naked Fireman, Episode 4 [END]”

Naked Fireman, Episode 3

TL;DR: Who said you were allowed to almost make me cry twice?

Look, two of my absolute favorite character-related things are loyalty and found family, and Naked Fireman just delivered both of those things to me when I was not expecting them. This episode had some of the best bromance and surrogate father scenes I’ve seen in ages, and I’m both astonished that it happened and upset that I don’t see this quality of relationships in shows that are four to five times as long as this one. Continue reading “Naked Fireman, Episode 3”

Naked Fireman, Episode 2

TL;DR: Turns out there was enough time for a red-herring!

But first off, this show is doing a great job of convincing me that Cheol-soo and Jin-ah ought to be a thing. There’s no time for dilly-dallying about building a relationship when there are only four episodes, and the two of them got to have several charged moments in this hour. Continue reading “Naked Fireman, Episode 2”

Naked Fireman, Episode 1

TL;DR: This drama special is definitely trying to live up to its name.

With two weeks to go until the next drama I want to watch, I decided now would be the perfect time to try tackling the drama specials and movies on my to-watch list. I decided to go for Naked Fireman first because I still giggle whenever I see its name. And honestly? The first episode is pretty damned good for what is essentially the awkward mating of a screwball comedy and a murder mystery. Not only did it make me laugh, but it also made me care about the mystery that needs to be solved. Continue reading “Naked Fireman, Episode 1”