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”

Closing – Four Hopes for Solomon’s Perjury

I have finally finished a drama! And I also ended up laughing when I went to look back at my initial hopes for Solomon’s Perjury. The funny thing is that I got basically everything I asked for—only it’s all the things I didn’t ask for that soured the show for me.

But I shall be kind today and judge the drama based on what I asked of it:

Romance does not get in the way of solving a murder. I honestly have no complaints about this one. Joon-young’s one-sided crush on Seo-yeon was a fun little thing going on in the background, but he didn’t let it get in the way of their friendship, and it definitely didn’t distract from the trial. There were no love triangles or angsting over romantic feelings. Instead, the kids centered So-woo’s death and the trial, and the show was all the better for it.

A good adult. There were so many good adults in this show that I was honestly surprised. Seo-yeon’s parents were the best of the lot, particularly her mother. Seriously, so many other kdrama mothers need to take lessons from Seo-yeon’s mother. I loved how Seo-yeon’s parents, Joo-ri’s mother, the club advisor, and even Ji-hoon’s father all deeply cared for the kids and took their feelings and thoughts seriously. They were, of course, balanced out by some atrocious and/or mediocre parenting, but I was delighted by this. Thank you for showing that it is possible to grow up and be a good adult.

Interesting investigations/court room scenes. On the whole, yes, the investigations and court room scenes were interesting. I enjoyed it when Seo-yeon got to do some clever detective work; I would have enjoyed it more if Ji-hoon hadn’t been deliberately concealing some of that information from her. Still, the court room scenes held my attention and also doubled as—

Lots of social commentary. We actually got less of it than I was hoping for, though the school got its corruption rightfully exposed to the ridicule of the world, and everyone that should have been arrested was arrested. There were also some great moments were the kids got to call out the adults on their terrible parenting and/or unethical behavior. While some things were left unfinished or weren’t addressed to my satisfaction, I think Solomon’s Perjury accomplished what it set out to do in this regard.


So what did you think of Solomon’s Perjury? I’m curious to know.

Solomon’s Perjury, Episode 12 (END)

TL;DR: Yeah, this was Ji-hoon’s story the whole time. Sorry you thought otherwise.

This was a lackluster way to end the series, and I wish there had been something more behind it. Unfortunately, I think Solomon’s Perjury was too long, even at twelve episodes. By the time we hit this final installment of the trial, the audience knew basically everything that Ji-hoon and Kyung-moon testified to. The only (small) surprise was the revelation that Ji-hoon argued with So-woo before So-woo committed suicide.

(And I’ve got to say, even though all signs were pointing to it, it is still a letdown that So-woo committed suicide. I thought we were going to have a murder mystery; instead it turned into straight societal commentary. I wanted both, dammit.) Continue reading “Solomon’s Perjury, Episode 12 (END)”

Solomon’s Perjury, Episode 11

TL;DR: Ji-hoon really does take after Kyung-moon: they both failed several of their tests of character.

We got more answers this week, mostly about So-woo’s reasoning for becoming the Jeong-guk Watchman. We were also given an extended flashback showing how So-woo was actively trying to drive a wedge between Ji-hoon and Kyung-moon, though I honestly don’t know why he would do that. If you’re that bitter about getting kicked out of the school for hinting at the school’s corruption, why don’t you just skip taunting Kyung-moon and go straight to revealing it all to Ji-hoon? Did you have some other purpose? Or were you just wanting to torment Kyung-moon without any intention of following through?

(Even though we have progressively gotten more details about So-woo throughout the show, I’m still having difficulty piecing together the entire picture of who he was. My fear is that the final episode will finish pulling him into focus instead of centering our heroine, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all at this point.) Continue reading “Solomon’s Perjury, Episode 11”

Solomon’s Perjury, Episode 10

TL;DR: Oh, hey, they finally decided it was time for Seo-yeon to get clued into some of Ji-hoon’s secrets. I mean, it’s not like the girl has HEROINE emblazoned on her sweatshirt or anything.

It’s no secret that I’ve been frustrated over Solomon Perjury’s sidelining of Seo-yeon, but I’m still hopeful that this episode has marked a return her story. We’ll see if the final week can execute a last-minute course correction. I’m not terribly optimistic.

In the meantime, I’ll take what small victories I can get—at least Seo-yeon knows that Ji-hoon’s father is the Jeong-guk Foundation’s lawyer and the one behind the current ploy to get her and the rest of the trial club (but not, conveniently, his son) expelled from school. She gave Ji-hoon a chance to come clean, and instead of taking it (or even asking about the other school trial club members to see if they were okay), his sole concern was that they’re willing to sacrifice their own records for the sake of the trial. Continue reading “Solomon’s Perjury, Episode 10”

Solomon’s Perjury, Episode 9

TL;DR: Why did you lie to us that Seo-yeon was the protagonist in this show?

So, it’s cute and all that Kyung-moon was once the kind of guy whose heart could be moved by the plight of a suffering boy to the point that he ended up adopting him, but Kyung-moon has changed over the last decade and he’s now the sort of guy who does shady shit for rich folks. (Though he does keep a cute drawing and photo in his office.) And if I were still invested in Ji-hoon as a character, maybe I would care about the inevitable father/son conflict we’re speeding towards. But I don’t. Continue reading “Solomon’s Perjury, Episode 9”

Solomon’s Perjury, Episode 8

TL;DR: I may be teetering dangerously close to hatewatching thanks to some things that could easily be fixed but that the show steadfastly refuses to do. Also, there’s a lot of domestic violence in this episode, so take that under consideration.

We got confirmation today that So-woo stumbled upon evidence that Jeong-guk was allowing the families of unqualified students buy admission to the school. While my American self looks at legacy admissions and just shrugs—of course it happens, this is everyday corruption over here—I am also keenly aware of the fact that President Park Geun-hye’s current scandal was kicked off by Choi Soon-sil’s daughter’s illegal admission into Ewha University. So while I’m sure that Kyung-moon’s justification for allowing unqualified kids from rich/powerful families into the school so they can pay for scholarship students/other things the school needs is a routinely accepted justification in my country, it sure as shit isn’t going to fly in Korea. Continue reading “Solomon’s Perjury, Episode 8”

Solomon’s Perjury, Episode 7

TL;DR: Maybe, just maybe, you should put hidden keys back where you found them instead of playing “what does this unlock?” in a lawyer’s office.

I’ll give Solomon’s Perjury this: it is a break from tradition to have the murder victim purposefully sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong instead of having him be an accidental witness that must be silenced. I don’t know what a list of students “under special management” means, but I’m guessing that’s a bit more sinister than merely a record of which students have IEPs.

(Side note: Why the hell does Kyung-moon keep such sensitive material in his home office? He’s got to have a proper, professional office elsewhere. One with maybe building security or something? And why would you put those documents in a locked drawer that could easily be forced open even without a key if they’re that big a deal? Why not in a safe? I get it, you adore and trust your son, but that is no excuse for the kind of negligence that definitely should have gotten you fired if your employers found out.) Continue reading “Solomon’s Perjury, Episode 7”

Solomon’s Perjury, Episode 6

TL;DR: On the one hand, I’m intrigued by this show. On the other, I am growing increasingly frustrated with it.

I complained previously about Ji-hoon getting in the way of Seo-yeon’s story, particularly the Daddy-Long-Legs and Genius Male Lead characteristics he’s taking on, and I’m sorry to say they were in full force again. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where I’m starting to doubt his regard for Seo-yeon, which I just praised in the last post. I think he’s far more interested in his own (secret) agenda than he is with Seo-yeon as a person or even in proving Woo-hyuk’s innocence. That does not make me a happy audience member. Continue reading “Solomon’s Perjury, Episode 6”