Beyond The Classroom Walls: Top 3 K-Drama Teachers

Teachers have an enormous responsibility because few other adults have such massive potential to impact students’ lives. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, how many years you’ve been in school, or what kind of school you attend(ed): everyone remembers the people who taught them.

The impact a teacher may have on his or her students can be positive or negative, but today we are going to focus on the positive as we take a look at three of the most amazing teacher characters in K-Dramaland. These characters encourage their students, treat them with respect, and sincerely care for their wellbeing.

Just as in real life, these teachers aren’t perfect and certainly make their share of mistakes along the way. I just want to put that out there so as not to appear to paint these characters as flawless. I think that an important factor to consider is that when they do make mistakes, they reflect upon them, learn from them, and move on while striving to do better in the future.

Enough talk; let’s enter the classroom. First up is a classic (from one of my first K-dramas ever)….

Jung In Jae – School 2013

Jung In Jae (Jang Nara) in School 2013 is spunky, resilient, and — despite her petite stature — firmly stands her ground when some of her bigger-framed students (namely, a couple of the teenage boys) begin acting up. She listens well to her instincts, even when it means risking her popularity among her coworkers by going against the grain.

As tough as she is, however, Teacher Jung has a kind and compassionate heart. When her colleagues warn her that her notorious class of mostly troublemakers are a bunch of hopeless cases, Teacher Jung chooses to give them a chance and believe in their potential even when the students themselves don’t. She truly believes that these young people — in this instance, some of her more rebellious students — have underlying reasons for acting as they do. Rather than glossing over these particular kids and ignoring their problems (like her predecessors seem to have done) she does her best to get to the root of their issues and help each one overcome his or her personal obstacles.

As I stated in the introduction, these teachers are not portrayed as perfect — and Teacher Jung is no exception. She definitely makes mistakes. A particularly poignant example is when she slaps a student across his face. It’s crucial to note that School 2013 aired in (drumroll, please) 2013 — not long after corporal punishment was banned in schools in South Korea. The drama itself openly makes a point of this issue, exploring how teachers and students alike might fit into this (at the time) fairly new dynamic. (This is not to excuse, justify, or rationalize her behavior by any means. But it is something to think about as you watch.)

Oh Han Kyeol – Moment of Eighteen

While watching Moment of Eighteen (also called At Eighteen), I found an unexpectedly favorite character in the a-dork-able Teacher Oh (Kang Ki Young). His contagious smile and happy-go-lucky attitude are delightful, but don’t be fooled by his playful demeanor; Teacher Oh will not hesitate to go to bat for any of his students — even if those he must protect them against are their own parents.

He doesn’t play favorites, but sincerely cares for each student equally as he strives to gain their trust in a world where not every adult is trustworthy. He listens to his students — really listens to them — and makes it clear through both his words and actions that he is ready to fight on their side against whatever obstacles might come their way. He thinks for himself and refuses to be intimidated or controlled by those with more power, money, and influence.

While a lesser teacher might dismiss his or her students’ problems as trivial trials of adolescence, Teacher Oh is a careful observer who quickly realizes that a couple of his students are struggling with hefty issues that span far beyond the classroom walls. As each student fights his or her own individual battles, Teacher Oh does his best to be someone they can rely on in those tough times.

(I actually wrote an entire blog post on Moment of Eighteen, so if you’re interested in reading more of my thoughts on it, click here!)

Ha So Hyun – Mr. Temporary

Ha So Hyun (Geum Sae Rok) in Mr. Temporary (also known as Class of Lies) is definitely one of the best teachers in K-drama history. Something that immediately stood out to me about her is how passionate she is about her job, which she sees as far more than merely a way to earn money. Teacher Ha truly wants her students to learn in school so that they can make the best lives they can for themselves. And when it comes to protecting them, this woman is fearless. She will promptly face off with those who have more power than she does if it means shielding those under her care from harm.

The two dramas mentioned before this one are far more mellow and slice-of-life than Class of Lies, a mystery-thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the (slightly controversial) ending. (Speaking of which, if you’re interested in reading my review of the final episode, here it is.) The reason I mention the genre difference is because very little of the drama is spent in the classrooms themselves, so we actually don’t get to see Teacher Ha teach very much. That said, she still absolutely deserves to be on this list. Why? Because sometimes it’s the behind-the-scenes, unnoticed, and unappreciated work teachers do that demonstrates how much they care for their students. (And no, that behind-the-scenes work doesn’t necessarily involve solving murder mysteries, but I think you get the idea.) This is exactly the case with Teacher Ha. Even though we don’t get to see too much of her interacting in class with these kids, the way she joins forces with the drama’s main character to find out the truth behind a student’s death is totally admirable and just plain cool. Perhaps the occupation of “teacher” can sound mundane, but I think Teacher Ha shows more than anyone on this list how courageous and powerful a teacher can truly be.

Geum Sae Rok as Ha So Hyun

There are tons of teacher characters out there; these just happen to be three of my faves. Who are your favorite teacher characters in Dramaland?

If you’d like to get an email notification every time I post, just hit the “Follow” button. And/or you can follow me on Twitter at @kaylamuses where I tweet every post I publish as well some of my extra thoughts here and there in between blog postings.

Why I Almost Quit K-Dramas (& My Top 5 Faves)

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just cut to the chase: I haven’t been watching K-dramas (or any Asian dramas) lately. Why the hiatus? I started watching Outer Banks on Netflix. Then I finished it…and watched it again. And again. (I think that show broke me.) Now, I know my blog is mine and I can write about whatever I want to — and although I’m sure the niche of Outer Banks and Asian drama fans is out there and going strong — I simply didn’t feel like contributing my thoughts to that inevitably-awesome fanbase.

So as a re-entrance into my own blog, I’ve decided to compile a fun listicle of my favorite K-dramas. Please note I’m specifying that these are Korean dramas — I have other non-Korean Asian dramas that are list-toppers as well, but in order to keep this article a decent length, I’ll separate the categories for now.

These are in no particular order; they’re just my top five faves. (And in order to save us all from repetition, let me say this now: every single one of these dramas is exceptional in quality — acting, production, everything.)

Come And Hug Me

Come And Hug Me follows a young law enforcement officer as he reconnects with his childhood love — the girl he once vowed to protect from his serial-killer father.

Watch carefully for how Come And Hug Me portrays the power of words, the most poignant example being how the father of both of our main brothers uses his words very carefully: to mold one of his boys into what he wants him to become and to tear the other down to nothing. It’s a devastatingly truthful portrayal of the long-lasting impact words have.

Speaking of brothers and their father, this drama gives “family drama” a whole new meaning by questioning the very definition of family — biological or otherwise. One example is when our main protagonist’s stepmother treats him and his brother (who are unrelated to her by blood) with the unconditional love of a caring parent while their own biological father is…well, an abusive serial killer.

The drama also explores individuality and the power of choice. An iconic example is embodied in our main protagonist, who fiercely goes against all his father stood for by becoming a kind-hearted law enforcement officer.

If you’re looking for light and fluffy, skip this one; it’s on the darker end of the spectrum (yet somehow still manages to tell one of the most deeply beautiful love stories of all time). It will forever be one of my all-time faves.

Starring: Jang Ki Yong, Jin Ki Joo, Heo Joon Ho

The Crowned Clown

When the king’s life is in danger, his right-hand man comes up with a plan after seeing his lookalike on the street: get the clown to stand in for the king. What could go wrong? Well, The Crowned Clown answers that for us.

What could possibly be better than Yeo Jin Goo in a drama? Two Yeo Jin Goos in a drama. That’s right — the talented young actor really shows off his versatility by playing both the king and the clown (who are nothing alike; one is selfish and vicious while the other is gentle and fun-loving).

Action, intrigue, betrayal, friendship, comedy, tragedy, and romance — The Crowned Clown has a bit of everything and it’s all incredibly well-done. I honestly believe almost anyone would love this drama. It’s always one I suggest if someone isn’t sure what to watch next — even if historical dramas aren’t your thing. (They aren’t usually my cup of tea, truth be told).

And although there is far more to this drama than romance, the love story in The Crowned Clown is unbelievably beautiful. I can’t say too much without giving away spoilers, but trust me — you’ll be rooting for the two main leads to be together. Probably really loudly and with a lot of tissues.

*Quick hint to viewers: Don’t go into this expecting Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. The drama has nothing in common with it except that two young men look alike.

Starring: Yeo Jin Goo, Lee Se Young, Kim Sang Kyung

Save Me

Save Me follows a young woman whose family is trapped in a pseudo-religious cult. Although isolated from society in the cult’s commune, she — along with four young men — risk their lives to expose its evils.

This one has a special place in my heart because it was the first K-drama I watched in real time as the episodes were airing. (On DramaFever, mind you…R.I.P.) I remember trying so hard to pace myself, but of course as soon as the episodes aired, I gulped them down.

This is the darkest one on my list, so please keep that in mind if you’re interested in watching it. The overhead theme of a pseudo-religious cult is just the tip of the iceberg — it also deals with vicious bullying, abuse of all sorts, and contains a lot of potentially upsetting scenes. I definitely do not recommend it to young viewers.

Since I’ve addressed the love stories in the first two on this list, I’ll go ahead and address it here: it’s non-existent. If you want a sweet love story, this one is absolutely not for you because these teenagers are far too invested in saving their own lives and those of their loved ones to be worrying about romance. If nail-biting psychological thriller is more up your aisle, however, check Save Me out ASAP.

*Read my thoughts on Save Me (and it’s second season, Save Me 2) right here.

Starring: Seo Ye Ji, Ok TaecYeon, Woo Do Hwan

Mr. Temporary (Class of Lies)

When a student’s murder is covered up quickly and quietly, a former lawyer goes undercover as a teacher at that student’s school to find out the truth.

Mr. Temporary (also known as Class of Lies) is a classic whodunit. We are given a murder at the very beginning and don’t know until the end who the murderer is. It’s interesting and quick-paced, with enough give-and-take between the good guys and the bad guys to keep you on your toes all the way up to the finish.

One of the first things that struck me about the drama is its young rookie cast, specifically all of the student roles. It was a treat to watch talented new faces perform. And these characters, by the way, are layered and multi-faceted. No one-dimensionality here, even for side characters. Casting essential newbies might have seemed like a bold move when beginning the project, but it truly paid off; they all did phenomenal.

This drama has an…interesting…ending that left viewers debating; if you’d like to hear my thoughts on the controversial finale, check out this earlier blog post of mine.

Starring: Yoon Kyun Sang, Lee Jun Young (Jun), Keum Sae Rok, Choi Kyu Jin, Han So Eun, Kim Myung Ji

Beautiful World

When one member of a family ends up in a coma, the rest of the members suspect foul play…and won’t give up until they reach the truth.

Beautiful World is shrouded in suspense and mystery, which are thrilling to watch play out. But the drama’s main focus always comes back to family — specifically the strength and support a family can provide for each other in trying times (and contrariwise, how an unhealthy family dynamic can tear each other down and lead to destruction).

I wrote a post about this one after it finished airing. To check that out — and to read a more detailed account of my thoughts on the drama — just click here.

Starring: Nam Da Reum, Kim Hwan Hee, Park Hee Soon, Choo Ja Hyun

Until next time, friends. Happy drama-watching.

And as always, thank you for reading!

If you’d like to get an email notification every time I post, just hit the “Follow” button. And/or you can follow me on Twitter at @kaylamuses where I tweet every post I publish as well some of my extra thoughts here and there in between blog postings.

10 Scenes In The ‘Extracurricular’ Finale I’m Still Thinking About

I finished Extracurricular about two weeks ago and still find my mind wandering back to it sometimes. So I compiled a list of ten moments in the last two episodes that especially stuck out to me. These scenes are either simply awesome to watch in general, or they seriously left me thinking afterwards. Or both. I hope you enjoy the read, but that’s not a requirement.

Spoiler warning: Lots of spoilers ahead. This post is intended for those who have seen the drama.

Age rating warning: TV Parental Guidelines has assigned an age rating of TV-MA for Extracurricular. It’s for mature audiences, and I do not recommend it to my young readers. Please pay attention to this rating and view responsibly.

Worlds collide at Banana Karaoke Club

If you read my previous post where I did a sort of midway, spoiler-free review of the drama, you’ll know that I strongly suspected that Ki Tae (Nam Yoon Soo) was going to be at the center of some sort of big action — but I did not expect a full-on, bullies-united raid on the karaoke bar. They come to Banana Karaoke Club as a massive, pipe-wielding pack of trigger-happy teenage boys and they absolutely tear it up. It’s honestly so epic; the entire scene was possibly my favorite of the drama.

The bullies aren’t the only ones to show up; Mr. Lee (Choi Min Soo) is there to kill Dae Yeol, more affectionately known by our protagonists as Psycho Guy (Lim Ki Hong). Now, we know well by this point that when Mr. Lee sets out to do something, he does it. And I pity anyone who stands in his way. Because they’re probably going to die.

It’s so cool watching the different worlds of our characters collide: the bullies are fighting the karaoke bar goons, Mr. Lee is just taking out whoever gets in his way as he hones in on his target, and our third party of players in this insane mass of chaos are just trying to get the heck out of there alive.

That third party is Gyu Ri (Park Joo Hyun) and Ji Soo (Kim Dong Hee). Gyu Ri went there by herself to try to take out Psycho Guy, but not before texting Ki Tae from ‘Uncle”s phone, saying Min Hee (Jung Da Bin) works there and to come on over (hence, the attack of the bullies). She also plants the phone there, essentially pinning everything on these people.

Just when Gyu Ri needs it most, Ki Tae and his blindly loyal buddies show up and chaos ensues, creating the distraction she needs to get away. Thankfully, Ji Soo figured out what she was up to and comes to help. However, the two are grabbed by Psycho Guy and one of his goons before they can run away. As they’re being dragged away, Ji Soo accidentally drops the hat Min Hee gave him…which comes back to haunt him later, courtesy of Ki Tae. Luckily, Mr. Lee bumps into the group, grabs the karaoke bar goon, and bashes the dude’s face in. He then starts going up the stairs after Psycho Guy, leaving Ji Soo and Gyu Ri free to leave. Before Mr. Lee reaches the top of the stairway, he turns back and — true to his nature — tells the kids something very short and simple, but saturated with meaning: Let’s never meet again.

I believe he knew the almost-inevitable probability of what was coming next: on the rooftop, Psycho Guy stabs him with a pole, and the two fight to the death — literally.

As awesome as the entire scene is, it’s gratifying when the police show up — because Min Hee finally told policewoman Hae Kyung (Kim Yeo Jin) what’s going on — and arrest goons and bullies alike. But our two main protagonists have already absconded to Ji Soo’s apartment — safe…for now.

Someone grieves for Mr. Lee

Contrary to the scene above, this one stands out in a quiet way. When Min Hee is told about Mr. Lee’s death, the tough young girl breaks down in tears. It’s heartbreaking to watch, but I’m happy Mr. Lee has someone to grieve for him — and that Min Hee has someone that she cared for so deeply. Also, kudos to actress Jung Da Bin for the long camera shot that remains on her face while her character processes the news and tries not to cry, but does. The talent of these people astounds me.

Gyu Ri blackmails her parents

The heading says it all. Now, I don’t condone blackmailing anyone (much less your parents) — and I’m not a Gyu Ri fan by any means — but this was such a you-go-girl moment for her because her parents are a bit…much.

Ji Soo almost spills the beans

Teacher Jo Jin Woo (Park Hyuk Kwon) is one of my favorite characters because he’s one of two trustworthy adults in the drama (the other being Policewoman). He is the kids’ cheerleader whether they want it or not. And I love this final scene between him and Ji Soo.

Ji Soo — who is likely very nearly on the verge of a heart attack by this point in our drama — asks Teacher if he’s ever endured something even though he felt like he would explode. Teacher confirms that he has felt that way and Ji Soo asks what happened. Teacher says he eventually did explode, but had someone there to pick up his mess. He then asks Ji Soo if he wants to explode in front of him…so that he can be the one to help Ji Soo pick up the pieces. It’s a touching moment — and for a few seconds, it really seems like Ji Soo is going to open up all of the crap he’s been keeping down this entire time.

And I’m happy to report that Ji Soo tells Teacher everything, they go to the police station together so that Ji Soo can take responsibility for his actions, and the two form a father-son bond that lasts forever and everyone is happy. The End.

Just kidding. If only, right?

Ji Soo and Gyu Ri romantic(ish) moments

I didn’t expect any type of romantic anything between Ji Soo and Gyu Ri — and although calling these interactions “romantic” is stretching it a bit, they were tender moments of genuine care for each other in a more-than-friends way. And despite myself, I thought the moments were really sweet.

The first is the almost-kiss that occurs right after the Banana Karaoke Club bully raid. Because both kiddos are so on edge with all that’s happened, they’re startled out of their reverie by what they think is a police siren but is in fact that of an ambulance.

The second is a scene that happens after Gyu Ri gets the money from her parents. She meets up with Ji Soo and the two of them sit by the water, looking at the city lights. She asks him to fly to Australia with her and they fondly daydream about a possible future for a bit. But he ultimately turns her down.

I don’t necessarily like them as a couple for many reasons — I don’t even like Gyu Ri as a character, honestly — but it was still nice to see a few brief moments of affection between these two. And in a drama like this, I’ll take all the softness I can get.

Min Hee finds out who ‘Uncle’ is

Remember when I said Ji Soo leaving the hat Min Hee gave him at the Banana Karaoke Club would come back to haunt him? Yeah. So, it turns out that Ki Tae finds it while destroying the club with all of his bully buddies. He keeps it to show Min Hee, saying its proof she was there. She, however, knows that it actually means Ji Soo was there. So she calls him to meet up.

By this point, Ji Soo is essentially losing his mind. (Ji Soo’s entire mental breakdown is a fantastic sequence of scenes, by the way! It warrants its own segment, but I’m already almost done writing this, so we’ll leaves things as they are. Let it suffice to say, Kim Dong Hee’s acting blew me away in this drama — particularly in Jisoo’s losing-it scenes during the last episode.) Holed up in his apartment, this kid is very literally worrying himself sick. Gyu Ri has left (or so he thinks…dun dun dun) and Mr. Lee is dead. He feels alone and is no longer able to push down the guilt and fear that are threatening to consume him completely. He suddenly gets the call from Min Hee and goes to meet her.

After she confronts him, it all comes out. Ji Soo is sobbing and begging Min Hee to forgive him and repeating over and over that he meant nothing by it. Again, the talent here is simply incredible.

It all goes downhill when Min Hee does…or, rather, “downstairs.” Because that’s where she ends up, unmoving and bleeding from her head, after the two of them scuffle over Min Hee’s phone which recorded all of Ji Soo’s confession.

Ki Tae finds out the truth

Finally Ki Tae is in the loop! And his reaction is drastic. I knew he’d be angry; I definitely thought he would beat the crap out of Ji Soo. But stabbing him with scissors is more violence than I was expecting from Ki Tae. It just further proves this kid is way more sinister than he initially comes off (which is saying a lot because he’s a ruthless bully).

Stairway ending + a theory

After Ki Tae comes in and stabs Ji Soo, Gyu Ri shows up and busts a lamp or vase or something over Ki Tae’s head. The two of them run out and end up on the stairway landing as they catch their breath for a moment.

Before the scene cuts, Ji Soo looks up and his face changes: it seems as though he sees someone at the top of the stairs. We then see policewoman Hae Kyung — who’s been figuring things out on her own — running into Ji Soo’s apartment, taking in the mess, then following the blood trail out of the apartment and to the stairs.

But the kids aren’t there anymore. Instead, we see more blood smears heading further down the stairs.

My thoughts? Ki Tae recovered from Gyu Ri’s blow and was the one Ji Soo saw standing at the top of the stairway. By the time Policewoman gets there, Gyu Ri and Ji Soo are already gone, but someone was at the top when Ji Soo looked up. It would also explain why Ki Tae isn’t in the apartment when the policewoman gets there: he already left the apartment, most likely finding the two since they left a trail of blood behind them.

If there is to be a season 2, it would make sense to continue with a Ki Tae vs. Ji Soo and Gyu Ri struggle/chase. He was definitely furious; there’s no way he’d let something like this slide.

Hermit crab

The last time we see the crab is for a split second at the very, very end of the drama’s final episode when we see a hand feeding it and the screen suddenly goes black. Prior to this, the last time we saw the crab was when Ji Soo took it to go meet up with Min Hee. He asked her to take care of it for him, but seeing as their altercation ends up with Min Hee bleeding out from her head at the bottom of the stairs, it’s understandable that the crab was left forgotten on the bench.

I’ve done an absurd amount of going back and forth to check the accuracy of the above statements and have the pictures to prove they’re correct. Towards the end — directly before Ki Tae enters Ji Soo’s apartment — we see the crab’s regular container on Ji Soo’s desk, but no crab.

It could be argued that the crab is too small to see in such a shot — but there’s also no green-lidded carrier, which is what Ji Soo takes it around in. He has two containers for the crab, which we can see in this shot earlier on in the episode:

The crab is in his regular container while the green-lidded carrier is in the background.

So the last time we see it was indeed when he met up with Min Hee. But then who picked it up? Because someone is clearly taking care of it. It seems as though someone would have had to follow them to the meeting spot. Otherwise, how would he or she have seen the crab? And if they were followed, did that person see everything?

Feel free to join in the conversation and drop your thoughts on Extracurricular below. As always, thank you for reading and happy drama-watching!

And if you want another interesting read, be sure to check out my most recent post about the unique presentation of domestic abuse in the recent K-drama, At A Distance, Spring Is Green.

Would you rather listen? Check out my podcast: i dream of dramas

Or, you can follow my blog, Twitter, or Instagram accounts (also linked in my bio) to stay updated and also get some extra thoughts of mine that don’t necessarily always make it into my blog.

Is ‘Extracurricular’ Worth The Hype?: Honest First Impressions Of The Netflix K-Drama

Whatever you’re expecting out of Extracurricular, chuck it. This drama will obliterate your expectations as effortlessly as it sucks you into its story. It’s deviant, dark, and incredibly addicting. And after getting about halfway through, I realized I have many thoughts on this baby that I need to sort out. So, another session of writing therapy for me — and hopefully another thought-provoking (or at the very least, amusing) read for you.

I’ll be talking about the main characters and specific elements of the drama I find especially interesting and/or noteworthy. Happy reading!

Spoiler warning: I’m about halfway through the drama, so unless you haven’t even started it, I’d say it’s safe to continue reading. Nothing outrageous is spoiled, but if you haven’t seen any episodes yet and don’t want to know anything going into it, I’d skip this read.

Age rating warning: TV Parental Guidelines has assigned an age rating of TV-MA for Extracurricular. It’s for mature audiences, and I do not recommend it to my young readers. Please pay attention to this rating and view responsibly.

Oh Ji Soo

Kim Dong Hee as Oh Ji Soo

When the summary talks about a high school student doing something illegal, I was thinking something along the lines of drugs — not human trafficking. But no, Ji Soo is our baby-faced pimp of a protagonist and actor Kim Dong Hee is killing this role.

Ji Soo is a layered, complicated character — there’s a lot (and I do mean a lot) more to him than initially meets the eye. At first glance, he seems like a regular high school kid. He’s tender-hearted, slightly socially awkward, and super smart. He is neither the bully nor the bullied. He’s…pretty normal. But underneath it all is a seasoned pimp who has painstakingly built up a secret empire, justifying what he does as a “safety protection service” for his young ladies (in case there is a mishap with a client). Kim Dong Hee himself calls Ji Soo “two-faced,” which is spot-on. (I’ll link the interview at the bottom.) A testament to the young actor’s talent — as well as to the show’s writing — is how consistent Ji Soo is as a character despite his different sides.

I really didn’t want to like this kid or feel bad for him…but so far Ji Soo is genuinely likable and even pitiable. It’s an odd sensation as a viewer because — hello — he’s doing something horrible in every sense. But for whatever reason — whether it’s Dong Hee’s exceptional performance or the superb writing — you really like this kid and root for him. Not for his business to flourish, but for him as a character to get what he wants. Which brings us to my next point: Jisoo’s dream, a.k.a. the entire reason he started all of this in the first place.

Ji Soo’s dream is revealed very early on and is so simple, it’s almost tear-jerking: he wants to go to college and have a family. And when we find out what kind of family he has, it’s no wonder having a decent one is on his bucket list.

Lately, I find myself puzzled by (and slightly irritated with) Ji Soo. Although he’s quiet, he voices his opinions boldly…when he wants to. He’s stood up to Ki Tae, teachers, and policemen alike. But for some reason, he really lets the girls in this show push him around. We know you have a backbone, Ji Soo — use it! Don’t be a jerk, but stand up for yourself, kiddo.

Bae Gyu Ri

Park Joo Hyun as Bae Gyu Ri

At the moment, I cannot stand Gyu Ri (Park Joo Hyun), but I’ll try to keep my emotions in check and write at least semi-objectively.

Gyu Ri is Jisoo’s best friend/girlfriend/fellow pimp/classmate who barges her way into his carefully-constructed world and basically blows it wide open. She’s aggressive, outspoken, and incredibly unpredictable. She’s also a master manipulator, which makes her one of the scariest characters so far. And that’s saying a lot considering the entire drama is full of characters who aren’t exactly stand-up citizens.

I liked Gyu Ri a lot at first. She initially provided a friend to our friendless protagonist. She was one of the only people Ji Soo trusted — if not the only person. When she finds out his hard-kept secret, you can’t really blame her for messing with him at first; after all, she just found out her new friend is actually a pimp. But the blackmailing soon takes an unforeseen turn as we find out Gyu Ri wants in on Ji Soo’s scheme.

I appreciate acting talent, so let me clarify that Park Joo Hyun is doing a fabulous job; it’s just the character of Gyu Ri I’m disliking at the moment. I feel like I’m going to say this with every single character, but this girl is complicated. She longs for control and will manipulate any situation to get it. She’s confident with a capital C on the outside — but when we get a peek into her home life, we find out Gyu Ri has a lot of darkness holed up inside of her.

Any time we get to see even the tiniest morsel of Gyu Ri’s vulnerability, I remember why I liked her in the first place: she’s a hurting kid who puts on a tough face to cope. But regardless of parental derangement pressure, her choices are beginning to look a lot less like “coping” and a lot more like some bizarre power trip. She doesn’t need the money like Ji Soo does. Does it make his actions any more excusable? Not at all. But at least his reason is clear. Right now, Gyu Ri doesn’t have one…which is unsettling.

Seo Min Hee

Jung Da Bin as Seo Min Hee

Popular student Min Hee (Jung Da Bin) is secretly one of Ji Soo’s girls, and is surprisingly the most pitiable character so far. I say “surprisingly” because she isn’t pleasant. At all. She’s a whiney, bratty bully.

She’s also insecure and desperate for genuine connection with someone — with anyone. She validates herself by how her rotten boyfriend treats her, which isn’t great because he’s a little punk (who we’ll get to in a minute). A telling conversation is had between the two at an internet cafe, where she tries coaxing some form of affirmation from him — to no avail. Instead, it further proves how shallow their relationship is. Ironically, her deepest and healthiest relationship is with Mr. Lee (Choi Min Soo), Ji Soo’s middleman and muscle when it comes to their “business.” The two have a sort of faux father-daughter bond that is as interesting as it is dysfunctional.

Min Hee so clearly desires genuine, deep connection in a relationship (romantic or otherwise) and it’s heartbreaking watching her search for it in all the wrong places. And as you can see from the paragraph above, that isn’t even in reference to her selling herself. I hope Min Hee discovers self-love and self-worth before the drama ends.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how great of a job young Jung Da Bin is doing. She is the youngest out of an already-young main cast (she was born in 2000 while the eldest is ’94-er Park Joo Hyun). What a tough role to nail at any age, let alone such a young one!

Kwak Ki Tae

Nam Yoon Soo as Kwak Ki Tae

Ki Tae (Nam Yoon Soo) is Min Hee’s boyfriend — and top dog at school. He’s a bully, but keeps his bad behavior from teachers in case he needs them to be on his side. He’s manipulative and selfish. I have nothing positive to say about him except that actor Nam Yoon Soo is doing a tremendous job in this role.

Ki Tae confuses me, actually, because I’m still trying to figure out his character’s significance. Don’t get me wrong — he’s clearly important…but only as Min Hee’s boyfriend. His connection right now to what’s going on in the drama is solely through Min Hee. He’s messed with Jisoo a bit — but again, that was because of his girlfriend. Other than that, he’s disconnected from the story and is basically just another antagonistic character for the other three to keep their secret from.

Now, I don’t believe for a second that he’s going to remain this way until the end of the drama. I fully believe Ki Tae is going to be the driving force for some sort of big action. But as to what exactly that is, I have only two very faintly-formed ideas.

The first is that he is connected to the lady at the karaoke bar. When he, Min Hee, and their buddies are celebrating Ki Tae’s birthday, the woman calls him to the side to share a smoke and the two are clearly flirting — something Min Hee notices. Was that merely setting the scene for the woman to cheat on her freaky fiance (which happens later, and not with Ki Tae)? Or is it an indication that Ki Tae knows her? I tend to think it was the first scenario, as well as a moment for Min Hee to realize (again) what a crappy guy he is — but I’ve also learned that when it comes to this show, you never know.

My second idea of how Ki Tae may be used as a pivotal plot device was formed during a casual conversation he has with his friends at the pool hall. He bemusedly recalls once bullying a kid so badly that he attempted suicide (I don’t remember if the kid succeeded or not, but obviously neither scenario is good). This scene feels like it’s setting us up for something — as well as proving that Ki Tae could actually be a lot more sinister than any of us realize.

Comedy

I was genuinely surprised at how funny this show is because nothing about the premise is funny. What provides the most comedic relief is the subtle behavior of the actors — specifically Kim Dong Hee, who is demonstrating his excellent comedic timing with this role. The funniest moments are often in painfully relatable, awkward conversations or situations. It’s comic relief in the realest sense of the term.

Ethics (or lack thereof)

Ethically and morally speaking, this show is all wrong. It disregards ethical decorum in the same flippant way it disregards typical tv tropes. The protagonist himself is a pimp; the main characters are either ruthless bullies or devious liars. There’s almost no one trustworthy or even who most would probably consider to be “good.”

It’s a bizarre viewing experience because you know all of this is wrong, yet you find yourself pulling for Ji Soo. It will keep you questioning, debating, and coming back for more. To call it thought-provoking is a gross understatement.

Hope (in the form of adults who are actually trustworthy)

So far, there are two adults who seem 100% trustworthy: teacher Jo Jin Woo (Park Hyuk Kwon) and policewoman Lee Hae Kyung (Kim Yeo Jin).

Jo Jin Woo is hilariously down-to-earth. He is the only one who sees through Gyu Ri’s manipulation tactics. He treats the students with respect and seems to genuinely care about them. He’s laid back, but takes his job seriously. And he just seems pretty awesome at this point. In any case, he’s someone the kids could trust if they’d let their guard down…but something tells me that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

Lee Hae Kyung is the spunky policewoman who is quick to catch on to what Min Hee’s been doing. Under guise of giving her counseling, Lee Hae Kyung takes the girl aside at school and asks her what’s up, assuring her that she only wants to make sure Min Hee is safe. I believe her, and I think Min Hee does too — at least partly. It’s too bad they didn’t get to finish that conversation….But this woman isn’t done searching for the truth and I can’t wait to see her in action as she gets to the heart of it all.

So, is Extracurricular worth the hype? Absolutely. If anything, it deserves more.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to share your thoughts below. But no spoilers, please! We all like dramas, so let’s be kind drama-watchers to each other.

Interview video:

Trailer:

image source: IMDb

9 Signs You’re Truly Addicted To K-Dramas

One great thing about finding yourself in between drama reviews is that you’ll probably end up sifting through old drafts, which is where I found this little number. After some tweaking here and there, I present you with a list of some personal K-drama-watching experiences that hopefully a few of you can relate to.

And remember, this is just for funsies.

Okay, let’s go: You know you’re a K-drama addict when…

…you understand the significance of bangs placement.

While bangs down often denote innocence/youth/good, bangs worn up with the forehead exposed usually indicate the presence of villainy and/or that a significant period of time has passed by in that character’s life.

Iconic example: Oh Se Ho (Kwak Dong Yeon) in My Strange Hero.

teenage Se Ho
present-day Se Ho

…you accept glasses as a perfectly suitable form of disguise.

I mean, it worked for Clark Kent, so why not?

Iconic example: Ki Moo Hyeok (Yoon Kyun Sang) in Mr. Temporary.

…you find that your speed-reading ability has become rather remarkable.

Because we aren’t just reading quickly; we also have to catch what’s going on in the scene.

(In fact, does anyone else’s eyes have to adjust when watching a movie or drama in their native language? My eyes always have to take a second to chill out because they’re so used to jumping all over the screen between reading subtitles and watching the scene.)

…you find yourself — while watching with a K-drama newb — inserting helpful bits of knowledge about the Korean language that you’ve picked up solely through exposure.

Which probably means your definitions are not exactly technical, to say the least. Explaining “hyung,” for example, usually goes something like this for me: “Hyung” isn’t his name; it means older brother. But that guy’s not his biological brother. And that’s just if you’re a male saying it — if you’re a female, it’s “oppa”. Which can also be for a boyfriend. Okay, now we need to rewind; that part was important.

…you feel out of the loop when your friends talk about actors, actresses, and tv shows from your native country.

But by golly, you can school everyone when it comes to Korean celebrities and/or variety shows.

So there.

…you have watched an episode before it was subtitled in your native tongue.

And you’ll do it again.

(Thank you, by the way, to every subber — you guys are awesome and your work is so appreciated!)

…you realize that either you or the set designer is spending (arguably) too much time at IKEA.

I’m flattered because it makes me feel as though my home is at least somewhat on par with a K-drama home. But seriously, in my latest drama, I recognized an IKEA fake plant on the main character’s balcony. So if there’s a line here, I believe I might have crossed it.

…you first discovered idol-actors through dramas, then found out they’re also K-pop idols.

In my case: D.O (EXO)…

Joy (Red Velvet)…

Hyeri (Girl’s Day)…

Jung Eun Ji (Apink)…

and Kim Myung Soo (formerly of INFINITE), to name only a few.

…you have a prompt answer for anyone wondering what the time difference is between where you live and South Korea.

But you try to answer casually as though you’re not constantly calculating the time difference so that you know when your drama’s next episode airs.

That’s it for now — thank you for reading!

Which do you most relate to? Anything not on this list that you think should be? Feel free to comment your thoughts below and join in the conversation!

Closure At A Bittersweet Cost: ‘Nobody Knows’ Final Episode Review

Nobody Knows is the best drama I’ve seen in a long time — and its final episode does not disappoint. It maintains pace and character consistency while wrapping things up satisfactorily — all of which can be a challenge to nail down in any finale.

Keep reading to find out which moments stand out above the rest…and which unanswered questions I was left pondering at the end.

Spoiler warning: Since this post is discussing the final episode of Nobody Knows, there are major spoilers ahead.

This moment between Sang Ho and Hee Dong

In a heated moment between Baek Sang Ho (Park Hoon) and Go Hee Dong (Tae Won Seok), the latter reminds Sang Ho of a frightening childhood memory: a day when the other kids at the orphanage locked young Hee Dong in a storage shed with a vicious dog. He recalls freezing in fear as the animal charged towards him, but the young Sang Ho came to his rescue by shoving his arm between the dog’s jaws. Hee Dong says that he believes his heart and mind never fully thawed after freezing like that, and admits he can’t exist without Sang Ho. One of the most poignant things about the scene is watching a tearful Hee Dong gently stroke Sang Ho’s arm, which is still forcing him up against the wall.

The reason this scene sticks out to me is because in a simple yet meaningful exchange, it completely explains Hee Dong’s blind devotion to Sang Ho. I mean, this is the guy who burned his hands willingly because Sang Ho told him to. We know they grew up together in the church’s orphanage — and since we know how Sang Ho was treated, we can assume that Hee Dong was abused as well. In an environment rife with distrust and uncertainty, a heroic act like the dog incident would understandably have massive impact on a young mind. It’s now clearer why Hee Dong follows Sang Ho without question, despite how often the latter hurts him.

Rather than hurriedly finishing off the villains in order to move on to its “good” characters, Nobody Knows takes the care its antagonists deserve as it wraps up everyone’s stories. So even though giving us a snippet more into Hee Dong’s and Sang Ho’s past wasn’t expected at this point in the story, it’s a refreshing move — and I’m thankful the drama let us in on such a private moment between the two.

Sun Woo’s redemption

When a furious Sang Ho barges into Eun Ho’s hospital room, Lee Sun Woo (Ryu Deok Hwan) doesn’t hesitate to put himself between the two. When Sang Ho begins beating him ruthlessly, Sun Woo bravely stands his ground and does his utmost to protect Eun Ho…even up to his last moment of consciousness.

Just like the character of Sun Woo, the scene seems quietly unassuming at first glance. It isn’t a dramatic showdown nor a grand finale, yet it’s one of the coolest scenes in the last episode — and one of my favorite moments of Sun Woo’s in the entire drama.

It holds an incredible amount of depth for several reasons. First of all, Eun Ho gets to see a male authority figure fight tooth-and-nail for him — something he likely hasn’t seen before. Secondly, whether it’s consciously or not, Sun Woo is proving to himself that he is not the same man he used to be — that he won’t sit back and watch injustice ensue around him. And lastly, Sun Woo is going up against Sang Ho, whom he’s known since childhood and once respected as a brother-figure. Sun Woo’s gesture is a big deal in every sense and the fact that his opponent is stronger than he is only makes his actions (despite inevitable fear) all the greater.

Sun Woo is later shown laying in a hospital bed, bruised and bandaged. He grins as he admits ruefully to Young Jin how much it all hurts. But, for the first time in the drama, he seems to be proud of himself — and rightfully so. Even if we liked him already (How could you not?), Sun Woo had to forgive himself and we get to see that in this last episode.

“What if you had saved me?”

During Young Jin’s and Sang Ho’s showdown on the rooftop, there is a brief moment suspended in time when Sang Ho glances at Eun Ho and wonders quietly — to himself more than anyone else — how he would have ended up if his own figurative Young Jin, rather than Seo Sang Won, had saved him when he was young.

This scene isn’t an attempt to victimize Sang Ho. Only moments before this one, Young Jin herself says that he chose to become a monster, something he doesn’t deny. Instead, the moment leaves viewers with a thought-provoking image of what could have been when we see Young Jin opening the door of the room Sang Ho was abandoned in as she extends her hand to his younger self.

What if someone like her had saved him instead of Seo Sang Won? It’s something to think about.

Sang Ho’s final scene

After his trial, Sang Ho is led to his single prison cell where we quickly glimpse his panic as the door clangs shut and is locked from the outside. He crouches down and pulls the provided blanket around him, mentally transporting himself back to the little room his abusive mother locked him in when he was a boy. And with a chilling smile and tearful eyes, he looks up to the camera and sardonically muses that — once again — he’s back in that room.

This drama is chock-full of powerful imagery, and this scene is no exception. Viewers may be reminded of an earlier scene in the drama when Sang Ho is about to kill Lim Hee Jung: tied up and wounded, she hisses that one day the police will catch Sang Ho and he’ll be locked up with no escape, just like when he was younger. A lesser drama may have felt the need to flash back to this earlier foreshadowing, but Nobody Knows gives us the courtesy of drawing the connection for ourselves.

As my favorite character, Sang Ho’s final moment was one I was on the lookout for and I salute the drama for giving such an iconic villain a truly proper goodbye.

(By the way, I wrote an entire post about Sang Ho and his villainous squad, which you can read here if you so desire.)

Ki Ho’s and Eun Ho’s meeting

One of the final scenes in the drama is between Ko Eun Ho (Ahn Ji Ho) and Jang Ki Ho (Kwon Hae Hyo). At one point in the conversation, Eun Ho shares that he used to feel anxious every single night as he tried to gauge his mom’s mood. But his anxiety ceased when Young Jin moved in upstairs. Ki Ho regretfully states that he wishes he had been that kind of adult, but figures it’s too late now. Eun Ho’s response is golden truth:

This scene is special because it’s a conversation between two characters who were so vital in (unintentionally) setting everything into motion, yet haven’t been able to speak to each other since the very beginning of the drama.

It’s also a reminder of this universal truth: you’re never too old to change.

Young Jin’s closure

Near the end of the drama, Cha Young Jin (Kim Seo Hyung) is sent a package. Inside is the camcorder in which young Sang Ho recorded himself killing Soo Jung. After much inner struggle, Young Jin makes up her mind to watch it as she sits alone in her apartment.

Picking one beautiful scene out of an entirely beautiful drama is a challenge — but if I had to, this one would definitely be in the running. Interestingly, it’s the lack of fanfare that makes this scene all the more striking. We aren’t shown the camcorder’s contents; instead, we are briefly shown Young Jin’s face, then the back of her bent head as she watches the utterly tragic moment that has plagued her entire life.

Young Jin gets her closure, yes, but it’s not necessarily how she imagined or perhaps hoped for. In the rooftop showdown, she is finally able to face her demons — the man who murdered her best friend and, consequently, her own desire to kill him. She also gets the (bitter) satisfaction of cuffing him herself and arresting him for his crimes.

But I think the moment that Young Jin truly frees herself from guilt is the one mentioned above, which brings me to my next point: how the drama handles the camcorder is brilliantly executed and I can’t praise the writers enough for how they chose to incorporate it.

I love that the camcorder isn’t used as a showy piece of evidence whipped out at the last second to convict Sang Ho. In fact, he’s already locked away in prison by the time this shot happens. I was half-expecting a semi-forced court scene with a melodramatic reveal, but I should have known better because this drama is too good for something so potentially kitschy. Instead, the camcorder is a quiet addition — almost an afterthought — to an already nearly-resolved ending. It’s sent from Ki Ho directly to Young Jin, who sits at her kitchen table alone as she presses play.

The bittersweet irony of the camcorder is not to be lost on viewers: a vital piece of evidence that holds such agony is not used for more damage, but for beauty in the freedom that comes with letting go.

Concluding thoughts:

As a whole, I think this final episode — and the entire drama, for that matter — is simply stellar. That said, it left me with a few open-ended questions. Now, don’t get me wrong; these aren’t plot holes by any means. They’re issues the drama purposefully left as they are, welcoming viewers to fill in the gaps. However, I still want to throw them out there for the sake of discussion:

  1. Did Jang Ki Ho lead Young Jin to the wrong place on purpose?
    • It would seem so, because he later goes out to find the evidence (which we learn is the camcorder) and sends it to her. Did he suddenly figure out what the numbers were actually for? Or — more likely — did he know what they meant the entire time and was waiting to make up his mind about Young Jin?
  2. Speaking of the numbers…what did they mean? How did Ki Ho crack the code of the ‘New Life Gospel’? And where was the camcorder hidden?
  3. What was Sang Ho’s and Sun Ah’s relationship? How did he save her? And what did he say to her at the end before killing her?
    • I have to read the English subtitles, so I wonder if the answer to this last question is inferred in their dialogue but perhaps lost in translation. (Thank you to any translators and subtitle-writers, by the way; the work you guys do is much appreciated!)

Again, these aren’t pivotal to the drama’s plot, and they certainly weren’t left out by accident. The creators of this drama are too excellent at what they do to leave us with any plot holes. Instead, I think the writers’ exclusion of these details are meant to provoke thought…which is clearly exactly what they did.

Bravo to the entire cast, crew, and everyone else involved in creating this spectacular work of art.

On to the next drama!

‘Nobody Knows’ First Impressions: A Perfect Blend Of Murder, Mystery, And Family Drama

The first four episodes of Nobody Knows are out, and I’m already having to talk myself down from ravenously binging each episode the second it airs and is subtitled. This is much easier said than done — and it’s not going well, by the way. In fact, I was so excited to begin the drama that I watched the first episode without subtitles…then went back and rewatched it after it was subbed. Yes, I’m aware I have a problem. What can I say? — I have a thing for excellent dramas, and Nobody Knows has already proven itself to be truly excellent. And I have a strong gut feeling it will only get better.

My anticipation for the drama was not in vain; it was met, and even greatly surpassed. (Which is saying a lot because in case it’s not clear, I could not wait for this to air; besides initially watching it before it was subtitled, I also have had its premiere air date written on my calendar for a good several months now. Again, I’m aware of my issues — or, at least those related to Asian drama-watching.)

Only minor spoilers ahead — at this point in the drama, there’s only so much that can be given away, but I still feel obligated to warn of their existence.

That will have to do as far as an intro goes because, honestly, I’m just really excited to start talking about the drama. And since I’m assuming most people who are reading this have read at least some sort of plot summary, I’ll skip that and jump right into it with what is hands-down my favorite relationship of the drama so far: Young Jin and Eun Ho.

Ahn Ji Ho as Ko Eun Ho
Kim Seo Hyung as Cha Young Jin

Cha Young Jin (Kim Seo Hyung) is our main protagonist, a no-nonsense cop who has sworn to catch a serial murderer that killed her best friend when they were in high school. She is incredibly cool under pressure and can kick butt when she needs to. Ko Eun Ho (Ahn Ji Ho) is the kind-hearted and responsible latchkey kid who lives downstairs with his mother (and sometimes her current boyfriend — played by Jang Young Nam and Han Soo Hyun, respectively). Because of circumstances in his home life, Eun Ho seems to find more comfort and safety in Young Jin’s apartment than in his own and often spends time at her place even when she’s not there.

Eun Ho and Young Jin on a stroll

Their relationship is slightly unconventional, yet makes all the sense in the world because each is what the other needs/wants, but otherwise lacks. Without ever crossing the line, Young Jin treats Eun Ho with the maternal attention and love he doesn’t get from his own mom. Likewise, Eun Ho is a pillar of quiet strength and light in Young Jin’s ever-dark, ever-changing world. Neither character trusts others easily, yet each has let their guard down and put their trust in the other. They are at the same time a surrogate mother-son duo, and the best of friends.

Both Young Jin and Eun Ho are quiet, preferring to keep their emotions and thoughts to themselves. Perhaps because they’re similar in that sense, the two of them exchange as much (if not more) in glances as they do in speaking. The chemistry between both actors is fascinating to behold and the powerful and understated performances are indeed testaments to each actors’ abilities.

Ryu Deok Hwan as Lee Sun Woo

Teacher Lee Sun Woo (Ryu Deok Hwan) is a character I thought I wouldn’t care for at first because he initially appears apathetic toward his students. However — despite myself — I quickly grew to like him as I realized this isn’t because he doesn’t care, but rather because he cares deeply about them and is trying to distance himself because of an incident at his former school. He’s already proven himself a valuable ally to Young Jin, and he’s most definitely a trustworthy adult (whom I’m realizing are few and far between in our drama). He’s also apparently got a connection with the murder case Young Jin’s been working on since she was a teenager….Not sure what to expect from this, but just as with everything else in this drama so far, it will be interesting to watch play out.

Yoon Chan Young as Dong Myung

Another character that I find especially interesting so far is Dong Myung, played by Yoon Chan Young. Honestly, we don’t know much about Dong Myung yet, but he’s clearly pivotal in whatever it is that happened to Eun Ho. Dong Myung is another quiet character who harbors a lot of secrets and most likely has extremely valuable insider knowledge as to the truth of what happened. He’s also already shown himself to be fearless, which unfortunately can be dangerous in a realm of wicked adults.

There are more awesome characters that I cannot wait to see fleshed out, but I’ll leave it here for now. Besides the amazing cast of characters (and fantastic storytelling, which I’ll get into in a minute), Nobody Knows is captivating viewers worldwide with its stunning cinematography…

…and gorgeous music. Part 1 of the OST is ‘Warmth’ by Sunwoo Jung-A. Here’s the YouTube link to SBS’s official music video for this song:

The OST’s Part 2 is ‘Happiness’ by SAAY. Again, here’s the SBS official music video to the song:

Nobody Knows not only boasts appealing visuals and an outstanding cast; the drama also stimulates your brain with superbly-written suspense and mystery. Long ago, Young Jin’s best friend becomes the next victim in a brutal serial murderer’s string of victims; in the present, her downstairs neighbor — sweet Eun Ho, who’s a good kid but has obviously gotten mixed up in something horrible — jumps off a building. Slowly but surely, we (along with Young Jin) are beginning to realize that the two cases are somehow linked, but we have much farther to go before the truth is revealed (which is fine by me because I’m hopelessly hooked on this drama).

In conclusion, Nobody Knows tells its story masterfully, blending family and school issues with the overarching mystery of the serial murder and the crime involving Eun Ho’s jump. You get characters you feel for and care about from their first moments onscreen (which only grows as you get to know more about them) — and you also get the intensity and thrill that comes along with the criminal cases. So it’s really the best of both worlds.

One thing’s for sure, when it comes to Eun Ho, you can bet Young Jin isn’t giving up without a fight. And heaven help whoever tries going up against this woman.

Cha Young Jin

Nobody Knows is not being overhyped. It will keep you on the edge of your seat until the next episodes air, and then leave you wanting more each and every time. That’s a promise I can make from firsthand experience. I can’t stress it enough; if you’re on the lookout for a new drama to sink your teeth into, check this one out as soon as you can. Just be ready to be taken along for the ride — with no turning back.

You’ve been warned.

Here’s the official trailer, which I strongly urge you to check out:

Thanks for reading!

Have you guys started the drama yet? Comment below and let me know what you think of it! Whether you agree or disagree with what I’ve written, all intelligent discussion is welcome!

Featured image source: programs.sbs.co.kr

Shaky Ending To A Solid Drama: “Mr. Temporary” Final Episode Review

Mr. Temporary (also known as Class of Lies) just aired its final episode and, honestly, I have a ton of thoughts that I want/need to sort out. So, this blog post serves a dual purpose — my brain needs to process the ending of this drama, and hopefully my sweet readers will be at least mildly entertained in the process.

Alright, I’ve got my coffee — what about you guys? Let’s get right into it!

Since this post focuses on the final episode of Mr. Temporary, there are MAJOR SPOILERS ahead!

Let’s start with something I loved…

Jun’s performance

My favorite thing about this final episode is watching Beom Jin (Jun) completely unravel. He has kept such rigid control of his emotions the entire time that when he finally begins letting his true nature show, it is utterly terrifying. It’s particularly unnerving that even after the truth comes out, Beom Jin still furiously insists he’s done nothing wrong.

Jun as Beom Jin
final face-off between Beom Jin and Moo Hyeok

Immense kudos to Jun for pulling off this complex role so splendidly. I’m not sure I’ll ever fully be able to unsee him as the ingenious highschool murderer, especially since I had the same thoughts a lot of viewers initially had about him: Beom Jin isn’t as bad as the other kids. Ha ha…Ha. Right.

Thank you, Jun, for giving us the chills all the way up to your final moment on screen.

Next, the things I didn’t love so much…

It felt rushed

I’ve genuinely loved Mr. Temporary so much, but the end felt rushed to me — and here’s why:

The court scene is a little too convenient. As cool as it is to see Moo Hyeok (Yoon Kyun-Sang) school Beom Jin in public, the scene feels like a writer’s tool to move things along rapidly and, unfortunately, it shows. Beom Jin walks right into the courtroom and begins monologuing, then is suddenly called as a witness where an incredibly convenient video of him at Soo Ah’s apartment is played for all to see. It is dramatic, beautifully acted, and wonderfully shot. But it comes across as a necessity to conclude issues that need quick wrapping up.

Beom Jin in court
Moo Hyeok in court

I don’t know how these things work, but I wish the drama could have been extended — not only because I love it so much and would have relished watching a few more hours worth of it, but because I genuinely think it could have done with about 2-4 more episodes. Some issues might have been able to be resolved a bit slower, and at a more natural pace.

This unanswered question

I am completely fine with unanswered questions; I dislike when dramas spoon-feed viewers information, something this drama was great about not doing. However, they might have taken that too far at the end when Beom Jin is murdered and…we have no idea who did it. Not only no idea, but no clue — nothing. Just a random hand belonging to a hooded figure that quickly injects him in the neck with something, and then walks off as Beom Jin seethes in anger and contorts in pain.

one of Beom Jin’s final moments

Like, seriously…who killed him? (If any of you have ideas, please drop them below because I’m genuinely curious as to what people think and couldn’t find much online about it.) I have guesses, of course. In a twisted and dark way, I kind of wanted it to be Byung Ho…I’m not even completely sure why, it just would have been such sweet poetic justice. For that matter, I could also totally see it being Ki Hoon. Or was it simply one of Beom Jin’s father’s men? Or Moo Hyeok’s hacker buddy? Someone from the police?

Or did I just completely miss some indication telling us who did it? In which case, I would take back everything I’m saying and hide in a corner for a bit because I would feel dumb. But I went back and rewatched some parts and still found nothing. If a fantastic villain character gets killed at the last minute, is it too much to ask that we are given a clue as to who it might have been? At the same time, I think I’m okay not knowing for certain and just believing what I want to believe.

Me believing what I want to believe (or, Beom Jin in court)

It’s clearly intentional that we aren’t given a solid answer as to who killed Beom Jin, but I hope it was meant to provoke thought rather than to merely dispose of him quickly. Since they didn’t need to kill him off for the sake of the story — Beom Jin’s presence on screen could have ended after his final showdown with Moo Hyeok — I lean towards the idea that it was indeed intended to provoke thought, something the writers clearly succeeded in because look at me writing about it in a blog post because I was deeply perturbed at his death. Well played, writers.

It lacked closure

In general, things didn’t seem wrapped up with most characters. I understand that there’s simply not time to show everyone’s ending (which goes back to the whole “I think it could have done with 2-4 more episodes” thing), but I really wanted some kind of closure with characters like Byung Ho, Joon Jae, and even Ye Ri and Ki Hoon.

Byung Hun as Byung Ho
Shin Jae Hwi as Joon Jae

If I harp on each character I’m curious about, we’ll be here all day, so I’ll try to keep my thought process concise. Let’s start with Byung Ho (Byung Hun) and Joon Jae (Shin Jae Hwi), both very crucial characters in the beginning, middle, and even later episodes. They were characters I was invested in and cared about (yes, even Joon Jae), and I’m a little disappointed that we don’t get much of an indication as to what happened to them. Did Joon Jae stay with the loan sharks or did he end up coming back to school as Beom Jin promised him? I know Byung Ho is seen briefly in the last episode, but that’s it. For characters who were pivotal in a lot of the early plotline, I wish we had been shown a little bit more of them in the end.

Choi Kyu Jin as Ki Hoon
Kim Myung Ji as Ye Ri

I understand why Ye Ri (Kim Myung Ji) and Ki Hoon (Choi Kyu Jin) were not focused on too much during the final episodes; earlier in the drama, these two drove a lot of the action because of their outspoken and emotionally-charged personalities. So when things begin centering on Beom Jin, it’s natural that they fade into the background a bit. That being said, I still wish we had been given more of these two in the end — at least a little more than the couple seconds of their faces during the courtroom and classroom scenes. It doesn’t feel like a proper goodbye to characters we’ve been watching develop for weeks.

All of this being said, I would probably have complained if we were given a neatly little perfectly packaged explanation as to what happened to every single character because that’s just silly and not how life works. (But let’s be real — who seeks realism when watching a K-drama?) Maybe I’m just super cinematically picky and hard to please.

Conclusion:

Moo Hyeok and Beom Jin face off

Once again, it comes down to the fact that I just wish we had been given a couple more episodes of Mr. Temporary. I absolutely loved it as a whole. The drama is so solid, and definitely rewatchable. It seems like the kind where you catch more details the more you watch it.

One thing is for certain — every single actor/actress did a superb job — this drama has a lot of incredibly gifted rookies and I’m so excited to keep up with these talented young people as they continue pursuing their careers in this industry.

Well, just as my intro is brief and to the point, I guess my conclusion will be too: on to the next drama! Happy watching, dear readers.

images source: OCN

And if you want another interesting read, be sure to check out my most recent post about the unique presentation of domestic abuse in the recent K-drama, At A Distance, Spring Is Green.

Would you rather listen? Check out my podcast: i dream of dramas

Or, you can follow my blog, Twitter, or Instagram accounts (also linked in my bio) to stay updated and also get some extra thoughts of mine that don’t necessarily always make it into my blog.

Why “Moment of Eighteen” Is The High School Drama We’ve All Been Waiting For

Oh, another cute but predictable high school drama? Sounds great, I need a filler anyways. That’s what my brain thought as I aimlessly clicked on episode 1 of Moment of Eighteen. Those who’ve seen the drama know how very wrong my brain was.

Ong Seong Wu and Kim Hyang Gi in “Moment of Eighteen”

Right from the get-go, Moment of Eighteen quickly dispels any notion that you’ve signed up for yet another cookie cutter high school drama (although we all know those have their time and place in our hearts…at least in mine). It’s truly unique and refreshing and has audiences pretty shook since most people seemed to — like me — initially believe they were getting ready to see the same old stuff. Alright, enough talk — let’s get right into it with what makes Moment of Eighteen so different and why it needs to be on your watchlist!

(Spoiler warning! Super minor, but there nonetheless.)

It’s not what anyone was expecting

Instead of following the recipe most high school kdramas tend to follow, this one totally goes on its own path, taking a sharp turn from the typical and vying for something new! It’s a breath of fresh air, but don’t just take my word for it because apparently I’m not the only one that finds it so.

Take a look at some things MyDramaList reviewers have said about Moment of Eighteen:

In short, if you’re on the hunt for something offbeat and original, Moment of Eighteen is the drama for you!

The main male lead is a rookie actor (and he’s killing it)

Ong Seong Wu as Joon Woo

Ong Seong Wu of former K-pop group Wanna One plays protagonist Joon Woo, a loner who recently transferred high schools. He’s quiet and observant, but also strong — and quick to stand up for himself when others try to push him around. He is incredibly independent, working part-time at a convenience store when he’s not attending school. He feels lonely often because of how much his single mom works. We’ve been given very little information about his dad, but I have a feeling we’ll be filled in on that aspect of his life in due time. So far we just know that his dad is not in his life, even though Joon Woo knows where he lives.

I was shocked to find out Ong Seong Wu had only ever done one short film before this role. His acting is incredibly mature and totally organic– he’s definitely got natural talent! He’s killing this role and I can’t wait to see more.

The second male lead is the antagonist

Shin Seung Ho as Hwi Young

We’ve all heard of second lead syndrome but is there such a thing as antagonist syndrome? If not, there certainly is now because Hwi Young is both the second male lead and the antagonist, and young actor Shin Seung Ho is rocking viewers to the core with his portrayal of Hwi Young, class president and top student in the entire school.

Although he’s the antagonist by definition, Hwi Young is a character to be sympathized with — and one I genuinely like a lot. Moment of Eighteen chose not to manufacture another typical antagonistic bully character who’s rude, disrespectful, and violent; instead, Hwi Young respects authority and is a gentlemen to the young women in his class. He works hard in his studies and even helps his classmates with theirs.

However, viewers are quickly privy to hints that everything is not as it seems with Hwi Young. He clearly has a soft spot for Soo Bin (our main female lead — I’ll get to her in a second), whom he genuinely likes. But he also seems to have a knack for manipulation and even cruelty — particularly to those whom he sees as beneath him but who won’t bow to his will, such as Joon Woo.

Although Hwi Young comes from a wealthy family, his home life is anything but cushy. Physical, psychological, and verbal abuse are an everyday part of his life — and as the viewer is allowed further into Hwi Young’s world, we see crippling insecurity and deep-rooted damage that might explain (not excuse) some of his behavior. He’s a fascinating character to observe and I’m excited to continue witnessing his development.

The female lead is actually relatable

Kim Hyang Gi as Soo Bin

Some female drama leads that are clearly meant to be relatable just end up being superficial, overly dramatic, klutzy, and/or just plain annoying. Thankfully, that’s not at all the case with our clever and cute leading lady, Yoo Soo Bin (Kim Hyang Gi).

Soo Bin is friendly, sweet, and works hard when it comes to academics. She can also be awkward and overthink things. She lives alone with her overbearing mother as her father works away from home. Although we haven’t been given a lot of information on her entire family yet, (just as with our male lead) I feel that there is more to come soon.

One of Soo Bin’s biggest struggles so far is her mother’s obsession with her academics. As is the drama’s style, her mom (played by Kim Sun Young) is not a one-dimensional character that’s blindly obsessed with her daughter getting good grades. Instead, it’s explained why she cares so much about Soo Bin’s academics, which we find out when she yells at Soo Bin that it’s important for her to work harder than those around her because she’s a woman living in a man’s world. (It makes you wonder what her mom’s relationship with Soo Bin’s absent dad is like…hm.)

The teacher is one you wish you had in school

Kang Ki Young as Oh Han Kyeol

Teacher Oh Han Kyeol (Kang Ki Young) is seriously amazing. He’s such a dream teacher, and not just because he’s a total cutie. It’s almost as though he remembers what it was like being a teenager and applies that to how he treats his students (imagine that!). He treats them with genuine care and respect while still maintaining his authority in the classroom.

It’s so easy to write off the teachers as insignificant, shallow characters in most dramas, but Teacher Oh is proving this doesn’t always have to be the case. He’s solidly one of my favorite characters so far, and although we don’t know much about his personal life yet, I can’t wait to find out more about him as the drama unfolds.

One of the things I find most respectful about him is that he roots for every single one of his students — even the ones the viewer might not be rooting for at the time. He truly wishes to be a reliable figure they can trust, while equipping them with knowledge to pursue their goals. I’ll stop gushing for now, but he’s just the best teacher ever and one of the coolest characters!

The melodic OST is gorgeous

Has anyone else noticed that lately dramas have been so on point with their original soundtracks? Well, this one is no exception. Ong Seong Wu’s beautiful voice is put to use singing Part 2 of the OST, entitled “Our Story”. Part 1 is called “Moments,” sung by Christopher. Here are the links to both in case you want to give them a listen (which is highly recommended):

“Our Story”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABAlZPbLtcE

“Moments”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEcNhCfdpTY

Concluding thoughts:

Everything about this drama is brilliant — the acting, directing, writing, cinematography, etc. Every single thing is thought out extensively and with care. The characters are multi-dimensional, even ones you might not expect to be; no one is there just for the heck of it. It’s as slice-of-life and coming-of-age as you could want in a high school drama. It’s about real issues young people face in society today.

In case it’s not clear how much I’m enjoying this drama, I’ll say it loudly for the people in the back: I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Go watch it. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll be left thinking even before the first episode is over. If you want predictability, by all means, watch a sweet high school drama—just not this one.

image source: http://tv.jtbc.joins.com/photo/pr10011069/pm10053847

hope amidst darkness: 5 Reasons To check out ‘Beautiful World’

This drama wrecked me. (In a great way…I adore it.) However, now that it has finished airing, I find myself longing to sneak back into that world for a little bit…so feel free to grab a cup of coffee, tea, or your comfort beverage of choice & join me as we take a look at some of the things about “Beautiful World” that we already miss.

[Warning! Only slight spoilers ahead, but spoilers nonetheless. You’ve been warned.]

These brother-sister relationships

One thing I love and miss about “Beautiful World” is the strong sibling bond portrayed between sibling pairs Seon Ho and Soo Ho, & Dong Hee and Dong Soo.

While Seon Ho is in a coma, his younger sister Soo Ho (Kim Hwan Hee) takes immediate action with fierce determination and limitless courage. She stands up for herself and others and will stop at nothing to find the truth surrounding her brother’s accident…regardless of who stands in her way.

Kim Hwan Hee as Soo Ho

Although we don’t get to see Seon Ho (Nam Da Reum) interact with Soo Ho much in current time (due to his unconscious state), viewers are privy to flashback glimpses of the awesome big brother Seon Ho is. He balances his sister’s spunk with a calm and gentle spirit. He’s even shown taking a vicious beating when the perpetrator threatens to hurt her. However, Seon Ho’s passivity only goes so far; when he witnesses bullying in his class, he won’t stay quiet.

Nam Da Reum as Seon Ho

Our second set of siblings is Dong Hee and Dong Soo, who are left to fend for themselves after their mother abandons them. Dong Hee (Lee Jae In) is miserable at school due to bullying, but hides the pain from her older brother, who she feels already has enough trouble raising her by himself. She is quiet and observant, and often catches things others don’t.

Lee Jae In as Dong Hee

Dong Hee’s older brother, Dong Soo (Seo Young Joo) , goes to high school and works a job to support himself and his little sister. He’s got a quick temper and a strong sense of justice, and often gets into fights. When Dong Hee finally opens up to him about what she’s been going through, he makes sure she knows that he is always there to support her.

Seo Young Joo as Dong Soo

This power couple

In Ha (Choo Ja Hyun) and Moo Jin (Park Hee Soon) are a middle aged couple with two teenage children — probably not everyone’s immediate visual when conjuring up an image of a power couple. But listen. These two are relationship goals. They go through a lot — and I do mean a lot — and instead of turning on each other, they grasp even tighter together.

Moo Jin and In Ha

They have extremely different personalities: In Ha is assertive and outspoken in her opinions while Moo Jin displays strength and care in a much gentler, quieter way. In Ha wants to act immediately while Moo Jin prefers to wait for the right moment and think things through thoroughly before taking action. They use their differences to support one another; when one is strong, the other leans on them for support until they can in turn be the strong one.

When the other parents turn against them and the police refuse to listen, In Ha and Moo Jin hold fastly to each other and take on the world together.

The villains

A drama isn’t half as enjoyable if the villains aren’t good. And by “good” I mean “bad” of course — and “bad” doesn’t even begin to skim the surface when it comes to the villains of “Beautiful World.”

Now we really could have our pick of antagonistic characters, but the core of the villainy undoubtedly lies with the Oh family. And boy, the dysfunction is real with these people. Only child Joon Seok (Seo Dong Hyun) is a vicious bully whose ability to manipulate those around him with ease is eerily frightening; Eun Joo (Cho Yeo Jeong) takes mother bear to the next level when she proves that she will do anything (yes, I mean anything) to protect her son; and patriarch Jin Pyo (Oh Man Seok) runs his household like he runs his life — it’s his way or the highway, and anyone who doesn’t comply will be sorry.

The OST

The original soundtrack of “Beautiful World” is absolutely gorgeous and caught my attention immediately. Rather than distracting the audience or pushing desired emotional effects on the viewer, the soundtrack supports the scene and blends smoothly into the drama. The songs are linked below if you’d like to give them a listen.

  1. Over The Moon” by Ha Eun and Han Bin
  2. Where Should I Go (A Beautiful Lie)” by Tiger JK and Bizzy
  3. Tears Of Love” by Kim Kyung Hee of April 2nd

The messages of hope & wisdom

Although the main events in “Beautiful World” occur because of societal atrocities such as school violence and corruption, the drama also presents viewers with messages that uplift, as well as some important life lessons:

  • In a world that can be overwhelmingly dark at times, there is beauty & hope found in the people you surround yourself with — which is why it’s important to surround yourself with those you trust.
  • It’s okay to not be okay. That doesn’t make you weak.
  • You may not be able to choose the family you’re born into, but you can choose how you live and behave.
  • It’s never okay to sit back and watch when you know something wrong is happening. Standing up for others and yourself may be frightening, but how you choose to act goes toward molding you into the person you will grow into.

Thank you for reading! Let me know in the comments what you think of “Beautiful World”!

images source: http://tv.jtbc.joins.com/photo/pr10011027/pm10051979