Chief Kim: Chief Psycho

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Some people are crazzzzzzy, but in a good way! I had skipped over this drama multiple times, but now I’m binge watching it like nobody’s business! I can’t believe I skipped over this hoot. Nam Goong Min, notable for playing evil characters perfectly, plays a psycho of a different kind. As a small time con artist/scammer affectionately called Chief Kim, he specializes in skimming money from small companies. He’s charismatic and manipulative. However, after getting caught with his hands in the cookie jar, he decides to step it up and skim money off a larger cooperation instead. He is a genius with numbers and had been able to help his old company avoid taxes for quite some time, but his book-making bit him in the butt! After barely getting into TQ Corp by a stroke of luck and how useful he would be to Director Jerkface, otherwise known as Director Seo, his original motive becomes a little skewed. While he always looks out for himself, he manages to accidentally save a widow and makes it on media as Mr. Righteous. He finds that he enjoys such fame and likes to do good things as well. However, his good deeds are majorly hindered by Director Seo, a previous prosecutor turned dirty director. Director Seo just wants him to play with numbers and make the company profits without getting caught. Chief Kim uses unique ways to convince and get one over the higher ups every other time. This earns him infamy at his corporation!

What a fun fun drama! I love watching underdogs get the best of the corrupt higher officials. Chief Kim is so crazy, but has a good heart underneath all his antics. He wants to seem selfish, but his internal need for justice, buried very deeply, always comes to the surface at the right times. I love watching him form unique relationships with those around him and win their hearts with his sincerity. I must admit I love the hate/love relationship between him and Director Seo. Seo, the gluttonous evil director, tries so hard to control him, but has a hard time handling the craziness of Chief Kim. It’s extra funny seeing the CEO’s son deferring to Chief Kim as well, almost treating him like a father figure after being scolded/beat by him. What would seem like a boring office drama is actually tons of fun and contains so much laughter!

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Just Between Lovers: PTSD

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Raw feels and tender hearts. Ah I didn’t expect to become attached to this drama, but I did. Just Between Lovers is a simpler story about three hurt souls who are all affected by a mall building collapse. We follow the stories of Kang Doo, Moon Soo, and Joo Won. Kang Doo’s father had been a construction worker who had died in the collapse while he had injured his knee (and subsequently his athletic dream). He now floats through life picking up odd jobs and getting beat often with the dirtier jobs. Moon Soo had been at the mall with her sister who had a photo shoot, but she was the only one who survived out of the sibling pair. The tragedy tore her family apart and she can’t even go up escalators without having flashbacks. Joon Won’s father was the architect at the site responsible for the construction. His father’s suicide because of the incidence propelled him into a repressed family life when his mother remarried. All three are trying to get on with life, but become involved together on the reconstruction project at the old collapse site. Moon Soo has as good mind for architecture design and safety and is employed by Joo Won’s company of which he is the CEO. Kang Doo does construction at the site, but is conflicted about rebuilding at the same location. As these people’s lives become entangled, they are just trying to find someone to patch up the gaping hole left in their hearts by the past tragedy.

I always find it refreshing when a kdrama shines the light on a mental illness as it is not talked about very much in Asian culture. Not only that, but the event is a tribute to the real life collapse of Sampoong Department Store as well as the Sewol Ferry tragedy. Such tragedies definitely generate survivor’s guilt and PTSD which the drama talks about in a realistic fashion. Families are broken and the event affects them for the rest of their lives. However, I am hoping for a good bit of spirit healing in this drama through connection and empathy with other people. The pastel feels and simple interactions in this drama feel thoughtful and not dramatic as you usually see in kdramas. I also never knew Jun Ho was such a versatile actor. His past roles were different, but he has great chemistry with our lead female too. She reminds me of the classy Soo Ae. This drama is seriously a breath of fresh air in the slew of melos and procedurals coming to the small screen.

PS. It feels a little fun to watch Jun Ho in two different roles as I’m watching Chief Kim and this simultaneously. He could not be more different.

Money Flower: Puppet Master

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Tis the season for antiheroes, falalala lalala! It seems like my favorite currently airing dramas all lack your traditional good hero/heroine. Instead we are focusing on characters who are less than virtuous who need a little moral streak in their life. The story focuses on Pil Joo’s revenge and manipulations. With a tragic childhood, Pil Joo grew up the hard way and learned how to survive by his wits. However, a chance encounter brings him into contact with Boo-Cheon, a chaebol son who just wants to play. Pil Joo earns himself a spot in their household by becoming whatever they need, basically their hunting dog. However, he possess the intelligence, wits, and combat skills that he is the master rather than the slave. On the outside, he is their esteemed and skilled lawyer, but internally he smoothes and manipulates situations to the families favor. Things come to a head when Boo-Cheon loses his company that his mother built so devotedly. Pil Joo concocts a plan to have Boo-Cheon marry the future President’s daughter. Mo Hyun, the daughter, is a emotional and soft being who fantasizes about fated love. She is everything Pil Joo has given up, his humanity and emotions. Unfortunately, he realizes that she had saved him in his childhood and slowly he develops affection for her. He has to make the two fall in love, but naturally. He coaches and feeds Boo-Cheon’s every word and step. With his already twisted plans and ideas, he is only driving the knife deeper into himself.

Jang Hyuk is an acting GOD. Pulling his emotionless mask from Beautiful Mind, he is equally if not more cold in this drama. He keeps all his emotions under a tight lock and only lets a few rare ones escape. He is the puppet master in the family and everyone depends on him. He knows it and uses it to his advantage. I am just waiting for the moment that Pil Joo will snap. He is just so tightly reigned in, its going to be hell when he unleashes all his grievances. Meanwhile, I am interested in seeing Park Se Yeon in a innocent role. She has often played the second lead female that we all like to hate. She plays that to a T. However, I am enjoying this naive side to her and I hope that Pil Joo’s manipulations don’t shatter her heart to a million pieces (even though we know that is going to happen). I am also happy for the reunion of these two as they weren’t fated in Beautiful Mind. As for Boo Cheon, wow, is he so annoying. I revel in the moments where Pil Joo gives him a few deserved right hooks for his foolishness. They have an interesting dynamic where the master is actually the slave. It is likely Boo Cheon will stab him in the back when he gets the chance too. As for Lee Mi Sook who plays Boo Cheon’s mother, she usually plays the mother that we all like to hate. However, so far, I feel pity for her situation where all that she has worked hard for is being given away at the drop of an old man’s hat. I am so excited to see how Jang Hyuk manipulates future situations so that he comes out on top!

Black: Grim Reapers

Black_(Korean_Drama)-P1.jpgI came into this drama with fairly low expectations, but I was blown away. Dark dramas are my thing, but not always supernatural. However, the interesting pairing of leads here got me interested. After all, OCN has never let me down. Black tells the story of Ha Ram and Han Moo Gang/Black, well I guess more of Black. Ha Ram grew up with a unique gift, the ability to see death before it happens. She sees it as a black shadow next to the victim who will die soon. The black shadows are actually grim reapers waiting to reap the souls. Unfortunately, her skill isolates her in society and she is afraid to look at people knowing what might happen to them. Moo Gang, a average detective manages to get entangled with her after a case. He begins to believe in her skill and tells her its not a curse. He says she can use it to save people from their deaths. Coincidentally, he was also her first love when they met in childhood. However, after they decided to start saving imminently dying people, Moo Gang gets shot in the head. He effectively “died” and his body was taken over by a Grim Reaper who was out to hunt down his runaway partner. 444, the reaper, renamed Black, has a completely different personality than Moo Gang. However, Ha Ram doesn’t know that Moo Gang is already dead and that the person before her is just the possessed one. She is unable to see the black shadow in him as he wears all black and part of the reason why she uses sunglasses in order to not see shadows. Black tries to convince her to help him find his partner. However, he doesn’t know what he got himself into as he realizes the body he possesses is already involved in a complicated situation.

Song Seung Heon and Go Ara have never really amazing actors in my book, decent and tolerable. HOWEVER, their roles this time played to their strengths and it is perfect. Song plays Black, who is awkward, deadpan, and a grim reaper who is not used to the human world. His limited expressions is funny and his change of personality is hilarious to watch as well as the reactions of his fellow detectives. Meanwhile, Go Ara is great as the fragile girl who is so lonely due to others shunning her. Watching them try to work together is really interesting. However, I can see a harsh betrayal coming soon when Ha Ram finds out that Black is not who he says he is and has been using her all this time. Though I’m sure, he will soften and probably catch feelings. Oh what a complicated puzzle that will create. I hope I won’t have too much heartbreak here.

Witch’s Court: *itch’s Court

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So much sass and so much win. The amount of procedural dramas are skyrocketing this winter and I love it. Witch’s Court tells the story of Ma I Deum, a fierce and manipulative prosecutor who has no reservations and even use underhanded methods in order to win her cases. She has been a prosecutor for 7 years and only cares about her ambition and climbing up that hierarchy. Ma had a rough past where her mother ran away/kidnapped due to a sexual abuse case her mother was involved with. Coincidentally, she was transferred to the sexual violence crimes unit after she offended some higher ups during a case. For her, this was her career’s death sentence at first. However, knowing Ma, she still managed to get on the news for winning her cases in a dramatic fashion. Also working in this unit is Prosecutor Yeo, a past psychiatrist turned prosecutor. He is straight-laced and cares about the humanistic and emotional side of the victims. At first, Yeo is frustrated by Ma’s seemingly narrow minded aim to just win cases no matter the consequences it has on the victim. However, slowly he sees the vulnerable side of Ma whose barriers are slowly broken down by him. They are a match made in heaven in their field, with Yeo molding Ma into a softer version of herself. Unfortunately for them, it seems that their past is tied a little more closely due to the mysterious disappearance of Ma’s mother.

While it is named Witch’s Court, clearly, there is a another name we can substitute it with that also rhymes. You know what I’m getting at! We see a female lead that is the complete opposite of what we are used too and a gender reversal in a way. Ma is the hard, unforgiving, cold prosecutor with a traumatized past. She is the one who is ruthless and only cares about winning. I love the way Ryeo Won portrays this role. She is so expressive and raw in her emotions. It comes off natural and engaging. Yeo meanwhile takes the usual role given to female leads, the soft and emotional side. He cares about the feelings of victims and doesn’t want to harm the victims even if it will win a case. I have loved Yoon Hyun Min ever since I laid eyes on Cruel City. He is a solid actor who is finally getting the lead roles he deserves. Every performance from him has been great and I look forward to him choosing other type of roles other than procedural dramas. While at first, I was shocked and disturbed by Ma’s way, slowly, I came to love her smart and clever thinking. She doesn’t care that people comment on her ambitiousness. She revels in it and uses it to her advantage. She knows how to use other people’s weaknesses and isn’t shy about it. Furthermore, sexual abuse cases is such a sensitive topic in S. Korea and not much talked about it even if it is rampant. We only see articles of it when its someone famous, but I’m sure with the hierarchal and patriarchal society, much of it goes unreported. This drama shines a glaring light at these situations which is a wonderful way to get this problem acknowledged and hopefully ameliorated.

Mad Dog: Call My Bluff!

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This is my bread and butter, peeps! Good old procedural, crime, squad goals! Some people find small story episodes annoying, but I love seeing all these different cases! Mad Dog tells the story of Kang Woo and Min Joon, two alphas of their field who are tied together by a common tragedy. Kang Woo is the head of Mad Dog, an agency that catches scam artists who commit insurance fraud. He used to be a former detective, but now he manages a team of specialists that help him expose these con artists whether that be through legal or more often illegal means. Before he quit being a detective, he experience a huge trauma. His wife and only son died tragically in an airplane that the pilot was using to commit suicide with. Coincidentally enough, the pilot’s younger brother was Min Joon, Kang Woo’s current competition. Min Joon is a genius swindler who seems have an ulterior motive and has been following Mad Dog closely. He at first seems to be working for the opposite team and naive-looking. However, his true cunning colors show as he is one step before Mad Dog in all their cases. They come to a head when Kang Woo and Min Joon make a bet on an insurance claim issue. Min Joon wins the first round, but shows his warmth by compensating the victims that he seemed to be against at first. Mad Dog are confused at his hidden motives and are not sure whether to trust him or not. However, it seems like he wants to cooperate and bring down these con artists as well!

Woo Do Hwan, my baby from Save Me is giving me another great performance as Min Joon, the young swindler. He has such a large range of emotions, some subtle, some expressive. I love how he can go from naive happy go lucky to cold one 1 sec. Kang Woo played by Ji Tae is a hard hitter too. I’ve always enjoyed his ahjussi roles as he delves into them deeply. Another member of Save Me, Jo Jae Yoon, is now on the moral right side of the squad! Though it looks like he can’t get away form that ex-convict character. He just plays it so well! I love his comedic timing! Mad Dog is shaping up to be an excellent though provoking piece as some procedurals always are. I hope to see a bromance between Kang Woo and Min Joon soon though!

The Happy Loner: Is Not Really Happy

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Such a raw and beautiful special. I’m glad that I came upon this piece by chance. It really touched a place deep down inside. The Happy Loner in this story is Ji Young, who isn’t actually happy no matter much she pretends she is. A self professed individualist, Ji Young refuses to form relationships with other people around her including her neighbors, colleagues, and most importantly, her family. As a child, she was subjected to harsh words regarding her very existence and watched her parents get divorced. She decided she was better off on her own since her mother or father did not want her. However, over time she became numb to the world around her and would not open up to anyone, including to her ex-boyfriend. Meanwhile, her neighbor, Byuk Soo, is the complete opposite. He depends on the affection and acknowledgment of others. He wants to be loved and is so very clingy. Everyone always tries to shake him off. Of course, he tries to make contact with Ji Young who coldly shrugs him off. However, after he helped her with an embarrassing situation, cracks in the wall slowly started to form. While still keeping him at an arms length, she lets him in bit by bit. Eventually, he barges into her heart and home to try to crack her walls of steel. These two try to fill the gaps that the other one lacks.

I cried so much during this drama. As much as I don’t want to admit it, on a scale of Byuk Soo to Ji Young, I am more of a Ji Young. She tries her hardest to be complete by herself, but internally she years for affection just like the rest of her companions. I guess that is why I feel so much raw emotion during her moments of weakness and hurt. I yearn when she yearns for that sweet affection that Byuk Soo provides. This is not to say Byuk Soo was perfect. He is the most clingiest character I’ve seen who would make up a plan to barge into the life of the girl he likes. He had maturing to do as well. That is why I loved this piece so much is because it is a slice of life and very realistic characterizations. No relationship is perfect and everyone has weak points. However, if you work at them, you have a chance at happiness !