Hi, my name's Kayla and I enjoy watching Asian dramas. And by "enjoy watching," I mean "obsess over and continually talk/think about." Welcome to my blog. (I also have a podcast, which is linked in my bio at the bottom of every post!)
Thanks to SHINee’s recent comeback, I found myself recalling a movie starring Minho that I watched several years ago. And rather than write about a currently-airing drama like a sensible person, I’ve decided to metaphorically pen this wholesomely unasked-for review of Derailed (2016).
Let’s start with some things I love about the film:
The story is unique and intriguing from start to finish.
The movie’s concept is refreshingly unique; I can’t say I’ve seen any other film with this exact story structure. Minho stars as Jin Il, a young runaway who lives on the streets with Ga Young (Jung Da Eun) and two other close friends. One day, the kids decide to pull a love motel scheme: Ga Young will agree to meet with a man in a motel, but the rest of the gang will burst in and rob him before anything can happen. Their plan is foiled, however, when their first victim, Hyung Seok (Ma Dong Seok), ends up holding Ga Young hostage…and believe it or not, that’s really only the beginning of our story.
Each individual’s performance is outstanding.
Every single actor/actress in this film blew me away with their performance. Realistic, believable characters saturate a storyline that calls for powerful acting. Minho completely sheds his clean-cut idol image for the grime and bruises of his character. But anyone can have their outward appearance altered. And that’s where Minho really knocks it out of the park. The way he physically and emotionally embodies someone thrust into such desperate, frightening, and dark situations is simultaneously heartbreaking and incredible to watch. He doesn’t hold back — and deserves a lot of props for this role.
Jung Da Eun plays Ga Young, and — like Minho — completely sheds her idol image for this role. The fatigue, hunger, and terror Ga Young feels throughout the film is palpable. Jung Da Eun fully embraces the essence of Ga Young, reacting how I imagine any young girl might react under the harsh circumstances the character has been through (and continues to go through). Da Eun’s talent as an actress absolutely shines in this film. It’s a gut-wrenching performance, yet understated (which makes it all the more believable). The fact that this was her first movie role completely blows my mind.
And of course the legendary Ma Dong Seok is one of the film’s especially bright highlights. Rather than a one-dimensional plot device, the character of Hyung Suk is written with surprisingly relatable depth. He’s caught between a rock and a hard place, and the viewer gets to see why he makes the decisions he does (be they good or bad…usually bad). He’s an antagonist with development, which Ma Dong Seok executes flawlessly.
I’ll leave it at these three for now, but everyone does an outstanding job. Check out the rest of the cast to find some more familiar (and perhaps not-so-familiar) talented faces. For example, this film contains one of actor Kim Jae Young‘s earliest roles…and, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a doozy (as in, really intense).
The police are useful and actually listen to the kids.
The Useless Police is one of my biggest film trope pet peeves. It’s refreshing to see on-screen policemen who actually use their brains and do their job. Imagine that. No, the police do not magically show up at the end of the day to save everyone (unfortunately), but they’re also not bumbling idiots. Nor are they stubborn jerks who blindly disregard anything non-adults have to say. The police garner trust with our main protagonists because they treat the youth like human beings and listen to what they have to say. It’s a solid writing choice for the story’s progression to have at least someone the kids can rely on when they need an ally.
The movie is gritty without trying too hard to be.
The header essentially says it all. I appreciate that Derailed portrays dark and dangerous (but — tragically — very realistic) aspects of society in an honest way, without coming across as angsty or preachy.
Now for a couple things I don’t love about the film:
The violence can be a bit much.
While I don’t like gore, violence in films usually doesn’t bug me too much. But Derailed can be downright difficult to watch at times. If Hyung Suk isn’t beating up Jin Il, then he’s beating up the other antagonist — who, in turn, is either beating up someone else, or getting his goons to. Yes, it adds to the gritty realism the entire film vibes with, so I understand why the violence is there — but I believe the amount of slapping, punching, and general beating is often needlessly excessive and could have been toned down significantly without compromising the integrity of the film. A personal preference, certainly, but one I thought warranted mentioning.
Spoilers for the end of the movie ahead!
I thought killing off Jin Il was needless. These poor kids have been through such atrocities and Jin Il has already sacrificed so much for Ga Young (and vice versa, for that matter). We fully understand that he loves her and would do anything for her; that point did not need to be driven home any more. But alas, no one consulted me when writing the end of the film.
End of spoilers!
What’s your favorite Minho role? What about Jung Da Eun? I think she’s stellar in Mr. Temporary, which also happens to be one of my favorite dramas of all time. Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.
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As always, thank you for reading! Until next time.
*Update as of 6/6/2021: I wrote this post when Penthouse had just begun airing. Some viewers were comparing it (in a negative light) to SKY Castle, so I thought I’d go ahead and write objectively about the similarities and the differences between the dramas. This post is not an in-depth analysis of the two dramas, a fact I find pertinent to disclaim since Penthouse is now already on its third season. Incidentally, if you’re interested on hearing my opinion of Penthouse as it continued airing, simply click here.
I have to begin by saying that those who are not even giving Penthousea shot just because it has a lot (truly a lot) of similarities to SKY Castle are sorely missing out. If you liked SKY Castle, wouldn’t you want to watch something with the same vibes?If you’re purely not interested in the drama, by all means, drop it. But if the only reason you’re not watching it is because of peoples’ comments saying it’s a SKY Castle copycat or whatever, I’d encourage you to still give it a shot. I confess I almost dropped it after watching a few minutes’ worth and seeing the similarities. But I decided to dismiss SKY Castle from my mind and give Penthouse a fighting chance. And you know what? I’m glad I did.
It’s not my new favorite drama or anything, but I’m sincerely enjoying Penthouse as its own cinematic piece. In fact, check out my review of its first two episodes if you’d like to see more of my thoughts on it.
Also, just for the record, I’m not Team SKY Castle or Team Penthouse. I like both, and I aim to keep this comparison post objective and fun.
Hopefully Penthouse can come out from under the shadow of SKY Castle someday; for now, let’s look at the two dramas when stacked side by side. Just for giggles and grins.
Warning: If you haven’t watched SKY Castle or Penthouse: War In Life, not only will you probably not enjoy this post to its fullest, but be warned there are spoilers for both dramas ahead — especially the fully-aired SKY Castle (as opposed to Penthouse, which only has four episodes out at this point).
Starting off with similarities (buckle your seatbelts):
The good ole boys’ club
Let’s start off with the most obvious, which is that both dramas have an elite, exclusive group that most of our characters belong to. Both groups are filthy rich, entitled, and snobby (with a couple of exceptions, but that’s something that exists in both dramas as well).
One set sweet; one set cruel. Both have daddy issues.
The poor girl who bests all the other teens and ends up dying under suspicious circumstances
In one case, it’s schoolwork — and in the other, it’s classical singing. Either way, both girls beat out their financially wealthy peers whose families are well-connected. Neither girl comes from wealth or power, and both actually end up tutoring in the richer families as well. Kim Bo Ra’s character is much more well-liked by the other teens in general, however, while Jo Soo Min’s character is despised by the others.
How they die is also comparable: both girls fall from a great height either into or next to a fountain. Both deaths initially seem like suicides, but deeper investigation proves otherwise.
The two women who knew each other as children and reconnect as adults
And neither pair got along when they were kids either.
The birth secrets
I ask you: can a true drama even exist without at least one birth secret? SKY Castle and Penthouse don’t seem to think so.
And in order to keep those secrets truly secret, I won’t even include pictures here. Because I know there’s someone out there who ignores spoiler warnings. Mwahaha.
The loud, flamboyant mom
Who sometimes provides comic relief, but other times provides the need for an Aspirin.
The overarching theme of motherhood
While both dramas revolve around families and include mothers, fathers, and children — both also specifically zone in on the relationships between a mother and her child(ren). Every adult female character in both Penthouse and SKY Castle is either a biological mom or a stepmom (each one has stepmothers represented). Both dramas explore what caring for one’s child looks like and — just as significantly — what crossing the line looks like as well, even when a mother thinks she has her kid’s best interests at heart.
Now for some key differences between the two:
To my recollection, SKY Castle doesn’t have anyone cheating on anyone. Not so with Penthouse, where a pivotal plot point involves two married individuals being caught in an extramarital tryst on camera in the titular penthouse.
In SKY Castle, the “good” adults are ones that come from the outside and move into the neighborhood where all our main characters live. In contrast, Penthouse‘s “good” adult is a woman who is already in the exclusive inner circle, not someone who comes from the outside (though let’s wait and see what happens with Yoon Hee because I’m wondering where the drama is going with her).
In general, I think the characters of Penthouse are worse than those of SKY Castle. There’s no middle ground with them; most seem super evil and manipulative. On that note, Penthouse seems to generally be much more of a soap opera/melodrama than SKY Castle, which tends a lot more towards realism (at least, as far as K-dramas go).
The overall theme of SKY Castle — and one reason it was such a success — revolves around the cutthroat methods used by the parents to ensure their children’s “success,” specifically in the realm of education. This drives the entire plot and storyline of SKY Castle. While the parents of Penthouse are certainly concerned about their kids’ images, the drama has a wider scope of storylines driving the action (i.e. the illicit affair between two of the parents, the birth secret I mentioned above, or the classical singing aspect — to name only a few). Rising to the top and staying there by whatever means necessary isn’t the core of Penthouse, as it is in SKY Castle.
Of course I can’t write a 100% complete comparison yet because Penthouse: War In Life has only just begun airing. But, so far, these are the major differences and similarities that strike me. Please feel free to comment your thoughts below! Do you agree that Penthouse should be given a shot as its own drama or do you think it’s a copy of SKY Castle? All thoughts are welcome. And of course, if you think I forgot something that should be listed in either the similarities or differences, please let me know in the comments!
If I’ve learned one thing from writing this, it’s that I want to re-watch SKY Castle again.
As always, thank you for reading and happy viewing!
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.
While this post is not a Penthouse vs. SKY Castle discussion, a short address of the topic seems inevitable. (Check out my most recent post where I compare the two dramas right here!) So, I’ll do my best to be concise and we can get on with the review. Yes, the two dramas share quite a number of similarities and the vibes are certainly comparable, but they are two different dramas. I advise viewers to give Penthouse: War In Life the space it deserves to make its own impression. I guarantee you’ll find it stands just fine on its own.
Enough said. I am 100% hopelessly hooked on Penthouse and can’t wait any longer to talk about it. So let’s dive right in with my thoughts and observations on its premiere episodes.
Warning: spoilers for episodes 1 and 2 of Penthouse lay ahead.
These two are back together and I’m so here for it.
One of my favorite things already is that Yoon Jong Hoon and Bong Tae Gyu reunite in this drama — once again playing filthy rich men, á la Return (though these characters are different…fans of Return should definitely watch them in this as well). Their chemistry is ever brilliant — and though I wouldn’t call them the comedy relief (both characters are downright unsettling…as is basically everyone in this drama), I find myself chuckling at their interactions with each other. In retrospect, I’m realizing how telling it is of the drama’s dark nature when the only semblance of comic relief revolves around two creeps who aren’t even comedic characters… .
The twins are the most intriguing characters so far.
And that’s saying a lot because this cast is full of interesting characters. However, twin siblings Joo Seok Hoon (Kim Young Dae) and Joo Seok Kyung (Han Ji Hyun) are the most fascinating to watch unravel. They’re nasty, conniving, and most will probably find them incredibly unlikable. But these two are utterly, utterly wretched and pitiful. It would be easy to feel sorry for them if they weren’t such punks (which is not to say that I don’t feel sorry for them — I do). But that’s part of the fascination: the complexity of these roles. I don’t know how things will end up for our twins, but so far their choices are proving they have a long way to go towards redemption…if they’ll get any at all.
Seok Kyung is outspoken and cruel. Her twin brother Seok Hoon is quieter than she — and I was actually expecting him to be an ally to our main teenage protagonist. After all, he isn’t outright verbally abusive to her like his sister is. However, we see at the end of episode 2 that Seok Hoon has the same mean streak Seok Kyung does. The only thing more unsettling than her penchant for cruelty is his ability to hide his own.
Now for the million-dollar question: can we fully blame them? Everyone has the power to choose how they act, sure. But the line between Nurture and Nature is not always crystal clear. Sometimes people are more a product of their environment than we initially realize — especially if all seems well on the outside. Cushy and rich don’t necessarily equal happy and functional, though. In a particularly weighty scene, we find out that their dad physically abuses them. (He even has a secret room in his study where he beats them. It’s horrifying.) Oh, and Stepmom (who is one of the only good characters so far) has no idea.
Despite their terrible behavior to everyone else, I find the brother-sister relationship between these two touching. Although Seok Kyung was the one who got in trouble in the abovementioned scene, Seok Hoon takes the beating for his sister so that she doesn’t get hurt. Later, when she’s dressing his wounds, he tells her that he’ll always protect her while she tearfully clings to him and says she’s sorry.
As in all instances where there is a villain in a drama, the handling of that villain’s backstory speaks volumes as to the drama’s quality. Thus, it is to its credit that Penthouse doesn’t use these brutally sober scenes to shove desired emotions down viewers’ throats. Instead, the scenes are tactfully allowed to play out how they might in real life: as a viewer, it does not feel like a show put on for my viewing experience, but rather as though I’m intruding on painful moments in these kids’ lives. The scenes are not emotional beacons, but tools that further tell the twins’ story — and that of Penthouse.
The protagonists are underwhelming at this point…except one.
This might be because I usually like watching antagonistic characters better anyways, but so far I’m not super invested in the main protagonists, with one exception.
I really like Shim Su Ryeon (Lee Ji Ah), the stepmother of our above-mentioned twins. How she ended up with their sadistic father, I have no clue. (And she doesn’t even know the half of it.) Maybe we’ll find out how the two came together later on, but so far we’ve seen that he’s able to mask his true nature when he wants to…the key phrase here being “when he wants to.” (By the way, Uhm Ki Joon is tackling this difficult role — of father and husband Joo Dan Tae — with incredible dexterity and I’m so impressed with his acting ability. How he can look so tame and kind and yet be such a believably violent creep is absolutely terrifying.) Contrary to her husband, however, Su Ryeon is kind and caring. She also has a biological daughter in the mix who seemingly has been a vegetable in the hospital for 16 years. Su Ryeon is so far the only good one in all of our penthouse residents. It’s nice to know we have someone we can trust on the inside.
Now, to the protagonists I’m not necessarily loving at the moment (but I don’t flat-out dislike either):
Min Seol A (Jo Soo Min) is a poor highschool girl who charaded as a college student so that she could get paid to tutor the teens of the penthouse. She’s found out, however, and obviously loses her position. But she stays in the game when we find out that she won first place in the classical singing audition for this prestigious arts school all the kids are trying to get into. Which of course only makes them hate her more than they already do.
I can’t put my finger on why, but I don’t really like this character much so far. She seems extremely mousy and submissive at all the wrong times. At first I thought she’d be the type to stand up for herself, especially when she jousts verbally with the intimidating and quick-witted Seok Kyung. But Seol A’s really letting these nasty people walk all over her right now and I wish she wouldn’t. Of course, it could be that she’s biding her time until she reveals the hidden ace she has — the incriminating video she took of two married (to other people) members of the penthouse kissing passionately.
I’d say mom and daughter team Oh Yoon Hee (Eugene) and Bae Ro Na (Kim Hyun Soo) wrap up our protagonists. The major reason I’m not too fond of them is because so far their roles revolve completely around the classical singing aspect; I’ll get into that more in a second, but let’s just say it isn’t my favorite element of the drama.
We know Yoon Hee has a bad history with a particular member of the penthouse, esteemed vocal coach Cheon Seo Jin, played by Kim So Yeon. Yoon Hee’s daughter, Ro Na, auditions for the prestigious arts school I was talking about and guess who one of the judges is? Seo Jin — who of course makes sure Ro Na doesn’t get in. Somehow, I doubt Yoon Hee is going to let that slide.
The lip-syncing is — well, it’s a thing.
A rather large plotpoint is that several of these kids are training to be classical singers, and the lip-syncing is…okay. It’s not so awful that I can’t watch. But it’s not fully believable either. So far I think young acting veteran Kim Hyun Soo is doing the best with it. At least it looks like she’s really singing, even if the voice that’s supposedly coming out of her doesn’t necessarily sound like her own. Squinting kinda helps. But the slight cringe is still there.
I’m not trying to bash anyone involved in the making of this drama. I can’t imagine how much work goes into syncing voices with mouth movements, not to mention making it look like you’re actually singing an incredibly difficult aria when you’re not.
The story’s build-up is intense & I’m loving the thrill.
The very beginning of the drama kicks off with an extremely unexpected death. This poignant sequence sets the tone of the entire drama right off the bat: it’s a world full of ritz and glamor on the surface, but penetrated with extreme darkness. The drama then goes back a couple months to begin its story. And thus far, no one has died — but I feel as though that won’t be the case for much longer. There’s way too much going on and there are way too many evil characters.
It’s time to wrap this up, so I’ll end by saying that despite some of the things I’m not terribly fond of (i.e. the whole lip-syncing thing and a couple of the protagonists), I’m completely invested in this drama. It is overwhelmingly more of a positive viewing experience for me. The acting is phenomenal, the story is well-written and unpredictable, and the characters are captivating. We’re also given hints here and there that there are a lot of secrets to come to light, which I can’t wait for.
I love Penthouse: War In Life and can’t wait to see where it’s going. And I definitely recommend giving it a watch.
Until next time, dear readers!
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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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
…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.
…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.
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.
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:
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?
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?
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.
The first four episodes ofNobody 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 thinkof it!Whether you agree or disagree with what I’ve written, all intelligent discussion is welcome!
Not long ago, one of my friends emphatically recommended I watch Extraordinary You. I agreed to give it a shot, but mostly to pacify her; I honestly had no intention of finishing the drama simply because I was expecting yet another high school love story.
I got sucker punched by a K-drama.
Hours after graciously electing to “give the first episode a shot,” I found myself completely caught up and twiddling my thumbs as I impatiently waited for the next one to air. However, rather than continue to twiddle them, I shall put my thumbs to good use and begin typing instead.
This drama is simply excellent; I could easily talk about how sensational it is for hours. (And I have…thank you, my patient husband.) Instead, I’ll get right to the reason you’re here: Lee Jae Wook — Korea’s newest heartthrob, most currently seen doling out major Second Lead Syndrome as Extraordinary You‘s residential bad boy, Baek Kyung.
The 21-year-old actor debuted on-screen only last year in 2018 and has already made his mark in the industry, proving himself to be incredibly talented and versatile. Although he has less than five roles under his belt, the way Lee Jae Wook embodies each drastically different character he plays is astounding viewers worldwide. Let’s take a look at his already-impressive list of works:
Lee Jae Wook’s first acting gig was the guest role of Marco Han, a drug-addicted programmer and hacker, in Memories of the Alhambra. It may have been a guest role, but his powerful performance had viewers around the globe all wondering the same thing: Who is this guy and what else has he been in?
He had been in nothing else at the time…but that soon changed.
Not long after, he landed a supporting role as sweet Seol Ji Hwan in Search: WWW alongside a number of big-name actors and actresses such as Lee Da Hee and Jang Ki Yong, to name only a few.
Next, Lee Jae Wook made his film debut in September of this year as sharp-shooting student soldier Lee Gae Tae in Battle of Jangsari. The film also stars SHINee’s Minho and American actress Megan Fox.
In the currently-airing Extraordinary You, Lee Jae Wook takes on his first main role as he portrays Baek Kyung, a high school student whose arrogant bad boy persona only scratches the surface of his complex psyche. Baek Kyung is an antagonistic character who is both angry at the world and hurt by it. It’s a difficult role, and Lee Jae Wook delivers his performance with the grace and maturity of a seasoned actor.
(Check out this Soompi article to read Lee Jae Wook’s own thoughts and insights about the character of Baek Kyung.)
Quick spoiler warning: This post does contain some minor spoilers, so if you haven’t seen episode 5 yet, perhaps rethink reading…unless you don’t mind, in which case — by all means please plunge ahead, good reader!
I keep accidentally stumbling on really great dramas these days — the last of which was Moment of Eighteen (you can read my two cents on it right here) — and although it’s a different vibe entirely, I’m genuinely enjoying The Great Show so far. It’s creative, clever, and does a good job mixing silly and serious — the latter of which we see in episode 5 when Da Jung finds out she is pregnant.
Her boyfriend, Jung Woo (Hyuk), is an idol trainee only two months away from his debut. He’s kind-hearted, super optimistic, and a bit of a goofball. When he learns that Da Jung is pregnant, he promises to take responsibility even though it means giving up his plans to become an idol. After serious discussion, the two — amidst opposition — decide they want to keep the baby and raise it together.
If you saw the 2016 action-comedy Chasing, you know Hyuk plays the smart-alecky little delinquent extremely well, so it’s been fun watching him pull off the very different role of a sweet boyfriend (and soon-to-be dad). Finding out you’re going to be a father at such a young age would be daunting for anyone, and Hyuk’s portrayal of the complex emotions attached to that is spot-on. Also, his chemistry with Jeong Eui is precious and the two seem truly natural together on screen. I can’t wait to watch more of their character development.
Actually, I can’t wait to watch everyone’s character development. I’m definitely invested at this point; what started as a goofy drama is peeling back layers to reveal more hefty stuff underneath. It’s lighthearted overall, but deeper topics such as teenage pregnancy, blended family relationships, and absent parents are creeping their way into our storyline. And I’m right here for it.
How do you guys think Hyuk is doing? Who’s your favorite character so far? Let me know in the comments!
Thank you for reading and as always — happy viewing!
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.
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 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
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
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
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):
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.