Cross: Organ Transplants

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While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I love me some medical dramas (only if they are done well and realistically, so BYE DESCENDANTS OF THE SUN). Cross is a medical drama focused on organ transplants which I am very familiar with as I work on a transplant ICU! The main character Kang In Kyu is on a revenge warpath to dig out the organ harvesting rings and stop the illegal trading of organs. His journey starts when his father is brutally murdered and all his organs harvested because they were scrapped for money for his sister’s treatments. As a result of a scuffle between In Kyu and the leader of the ring, Hyung Bom, In Kyung injures his head which in turn gives him a sharper sight than most humans. In Kyu decides to make it his life goal to find Hyung Bom and punish him. Under the guidance of Jung Hoon, a organ transplant doctor, he becomes a doctor as well. His personality is exceedingly cold and robotic as he is so focused on capturing the perpetuator that made him suffer for 15 years. Thus he becomes a doctor with an aim to harm rather than heal. Soon he becomes a prison doctor in an effort to kill Hyung Bom slowly with medicine. However, this plan is derailed when Hyung Bom finds out and escaped. In Kyu is shortly transferred to the same hospital that his foster father, Jung Hoon, works at. He tries to repair the strained relationship between him and his foster father due to past misunderstandings. However, he soon finds out that the hospital executives themselves are involved in illegal organ trading. With the help of tentative friendships he made along the way, he sets out to trap Hyung Bom and put him away forever.

While Ko Gyung Po was decent in the drama, I felt like this role did not suit him very well. He has a very puppy dog lost kind of look and just doesn’t feel harsh enough. I think a grittier actor may have fit this role better. However, it was fun to see how his sharper eyesight worked to his favor when fighting! Now for the unfortunate sexual harassment scandals that Cho Jae Hyun was involved in, I cannot fault him on his acting skill which is superb, but I am glad he come forward to admit his transgressions. This resulted in his removal from the drama, albeit the drama was in it’s final stages anyways. All in all it was a decent watch with realistic organ transplant ethical dilemmas to think about.

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Mother: Go Hug Your Mom Now

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It took me a long time to post this. To be honest, this is more of a review than a first impression of Mother, the Korean remake of the famous Japanese Mother drama. Even now, as I write this, my heart aches in a way that is hasn’t been before.

Mother is a drama that documents the journey of a woman who rescues an abused and neglected child and goes on the run with her. Soo Jin is a socially awkward bird researcher is currently between jobs as she prepares to go to Iceland to fulfill her dream career. She has a cold and distant personality which leads her to stay out of complicated situations. However, her attention is drawn to mature and pitiful child in her kindergarten class that she is the substitute for. She noticed the telltale signs of abuse on the poor child and grudgingly helps a fellow teacher pursue the case. Time after time again, she encounters Hye Na and can’t help but have emotional flashbacks to a past trauma she also endured. It finally comes to a point where Hye Na’s mother leaves her for dead in a trash bag by the curb. Soo Jin decides she will take this child and go on the run with her to save her. She fakes Hye Na’s death and thus begins their arduous quest out of the country. Their journey is incredibly difficult and then encounter many unfortunate situations. However, Soo Jin and Hye Na, who goes by Young Bok, develop a deep emotional relationship. Young Bok sees Soo Jin as the mother she never had and just soaks up all the love that Soo Jin gives her. She learns to let go of her past and embrace each day as it comes. This journey also matures Soo Jin who learns to accept other’s help and brings down her tall wall that she had built around her heart. Without this journey, she would never have encountered her birth mother along the way or made up with her adoptive mother.

Without giving away the ending, I must say it is one that is very realistic, but also so optimistic and perfect. There was not one episode where I was not crying. The story is incredible touching and it features all types of mother and daughter relationships, good and bad. It showcases the sacrifices a mother is willing to make to protect her child, whether they be biological or not. The story is very dark and has a lot of triggering content, so please watch at your own risk.

I must say that there was not one character that was wasted in the story. You even feel twinges of sympathy for the unlikable characters as most of them are molded by their circumstances. Lee Bo Young is very talented at playing the role of a “mother” as showcased by her previous drama, God’s Gift, where she was also searching for a child. She is so natural and raw in this drama, that you can feel her pain. And now, Heo Yool, god what an AMAZING child actress. This is her first drama and she carried it on her back! I can’t believe that this is her first one as she is so immersed in such a difficult role for a child to play. Can you imagine playing an abused kid in the drama? She has a air of maturity that you just don’t see in kids her age. I just am astounded at what a masterpiece this drama was and it will be forever in my favorite dramas list even though I used a whole box of tissues while watching it.

Doubtful Victory: Long Con

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Another con, but of a different type. Now this crime/detective story has a heavier plot than the other ones airing. Doubtful Victory tells the journey of a young man who escaped from prison to pretend to be a detective in order to find a large sum of dirty money! Yoon Gyun Sang pays Jong Sam, a young delinquent who was a sacrificial lamb in a big scam. He was put in jail on death row since his teens and has only known the prison life until he escapes in order to help his friend’s sister. He has a knack of escaping sticky situations and places. A fellow inmate had been discharged from the prison, but had become obsessed with killing his friend’s younger sister. After observing a fellow inmate, he was able to escape the prison. However, he encounters and becomes involved in a larger corruption scheme on his way. Recently a detective had been murdered because he was a whistleblower on some corrupt officials. Coincidentally, he had used the car that had the dead body in it to escape which drew the ire of the men trying to clean up the situation. While he did manage to save the sister, in a twist of events, he had to pretend to become the dead cop in order to find the stashed cash the cop had stolen. With many powerful people chasing after him as well as the betrayal of people he thought were mentors or friends, he has to find that money in order to survive in the outside world. Not only that, he still has to play the role of a detective under the watchful eye of the police force.

I swear Yoon Gyun Sang has the best comedic timing and expressions. He’s got that half apologetic and half exasperated look often in this drama. Also, I love a good long con and IL Seung is so slippery, he hasn’t been caught yet! I am also heavy advocate for underdog characters since I just love seeing them trump the more powerful and rich. What I would love to have seen more of is the childhood versions of our OTP as they had such sparking chemistry. Hye Sung plays a fun role here as well as the more skilled detective in the force, but isn’t getting the recognition for it. I love strong women and I hope she becomes IL Seung’s helper in his terrible situation. He is so caught up in the web of corruption, it is going to be hard to get his own life and identity back! This is well thought out drama that I am definitely going to watch till the end!

Two Cops: Double Trouble

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One Cop. Two Cop. Detective. Con Artist. We are on a police procedural spree. Jo Jung Suk plays one half (or is it technically both) of two souls inhabited one body. His original self is a detective skilled in martial arts and chasing down the bad guys. However, after he tries to find out who killed his mentor and partner, it all goes downhill from there. With a mysterious gang chasing after him, his soul gets bumped for a con artist’s. They were in an accident together that left the con artist, Soo Chang, comatose and his spirit bouncing into Suks’ Detective Cha Dong Tak’s body in certain situations. When Cha Dong Tak is in possession of his own body, he is the only who can hear Soo Chang’s voice next to him. Soo Chang is charismatic, sly, and smooth talker while Cha Dong Tak is a blunt jerk most of the time. Both realize that they are not only connected in the past, but are now tied in the future until they figure out the mystery and corruption in the police force. However, the two hard headed individuals often clash and have their own motives. This makes it extra confusing for the reporter, Song Ji An, who is only trying to get a scoop from who she thinks is Cha Dong Tak. Both are flirty with her, but she finds it weird that the detective’s personality changes so often!

I like Jo Jung Suk, but I feel like Hyeri as the reporter is wholly unneeded in this drama. It wouldn’t take away from they story at all if it was just a fun bromance between Jung Suk and Sun Ho. It is very fun to watch Jung Suk act as the con artist, but I’m still finding the story oddly choppy and just not very engaging for me (I’m 10 episodes in so it’s not like I haven’t tried). Perhaps its not the right timing and I may come back for this later!

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!

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!