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 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”

While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 31 & 32 [END]

TL;DR: How dare you make me cry.

While I have some quibbles with the finale, overall, While You Were Sleeping had a satisfying ending that wrapped up most everything satisfactorily. Sometimes it’s good to just have a show where the good guys are good and triumph in the end, knowing that even if it cost them some pain, they’ll still turn out all right in the end. Continue reading “While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 31 & 32 [END]”

While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 29 & 30

TL;DR: I really should have seen that coming.

Sometimes Yoo-beom can get things right. Yet even when he gets one over on Joo-wan, his follow-through is weak. He is only capable of making one plan at a time, and when that one scheme doesn’t go exactly as planned, his façade cracks. It’s impressive that he’s gotten away with his shit for so long—but then again, he’s only been out as a private attorney for about a year, so in retrospect, he hasn’t really gotten away with it much, has he? Continue reading “While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 29 & 30”

While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 27 & 28

TL;DR: Well, that’s a great cliffhanger for finale week. Thank goodness I don’t have to wait.

So one of the things I’ve noticed about Yoo-beom is that he is very confident in his own intelligence and abilities—but he’s also easily shaken. If you set out to flatter his ego at all, you can completely distract him from your purpose. He truly thinks himself as better than pretty much everyone else (see: all the times he has called his clients some form of trash), but he has committed serious crimes of his own. A truly clever man—and not one convinced of his own cleverness—would not be at all at ease after receiving those creeper texts. And yet Hong-joo was able to manipulate him easily because he is entirely ready and willing to believe that someone who doesn’t even like him would come to him for his opinion. Continue reading “While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 27 & 28”

While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 25 & 26

TL;DR: I ask about eighty billion questions, and I’m hoping they’re all answered soon.

I feel like it has been a long time since I’ve seen a male lead so uncertain about his work. Dramaland is no stranger to a plethora of male geniuses who get by on the-end-justifies-the-means results and assholery, but Jae-chan is keenly aware of the many ways in which he lacks. From embarrassing moments to social blunders to just being terribly slow with paperwork, he leaves so much to be desired that everyone agreed it would be way better for Hong-joo to shadow anyone but him on a day at the job. Meanwhile, Hong-joo is respected at work, and her colleagues generally think she has good ideas and a keen sense of finding and pitching stories. So it was nice that this episode took a moment to delve into Jae-chan’s insecurities and how, sometimes, the things that make him awful at his job are also an asset.

(Except for the typos.) Continue reading “While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 25 & 26”

While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 23 & 24

TL;DR: Park Hye-ryun’s weakness with legal issues strikes again.

Writer Park is many things, but a great dramatist when it comes to the law, she is not. I probably wouldn’t have commented on it, except I’ve already seen her attempts at lawyer-y things in I Hear Your Voice, so it’s slightly disappointing that she’s still sticking to these kinds of obvious cases. (Then again, she’s really good at making the cases matter to her main characters’ emotional arcs, so I’m going to let some of it slide.) Continue reading “While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 23 & 24”

While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 21 & 22

TL;DR: Does South Korea have a HIPPA equivalent? Cuz if they do, there’s about eighty billion people I need to file a complaint against.

Okay, as much as I like this show, it isn’t always subtle, and the use of two paths as a visual representation of Jae-chan’s impossible choice was as obvious as the fact that he would end up taking a third option. Nonetheless, the in-universe stakes (momentarily) felt high, and I am content with what has been presented so far. Mostly. Continue reading “While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 21 & 22”

While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 19 & 20

TL;DR: You know what? I actually liked that attempt at lying.

Well, mostly for the fact that it didn’t last an entire hour. Dramaland is no stranger to couples keeping secrets from each other for ridiculous reasons, but this was one of the few instances that actually made sense. Sure, Jae-chan might be happy to meet Chestnut again, but for Hong-joo, that day carries an immense amount of shame. The last thing she wanted was for the guy she is in love with to connect that to her. That day changed her perception of herself—what if it gave him a negative opinion of her, too? Continue reading “While You Were Sleeping, Episodes 19 & 20”