- Adorable but realistic Main Leads (w/ Character Development)
- Unusual and unexpected premise and context
- Entertaining and dynamic supporting cast
- Great honest communication –> Less draggy-ness
Disclaimer: *includes minor spoilers*
Rating: 7/10 (if you can make it past the first 6 episodes)
A decently entertaining k-drama that delivers the romantic feels and cute feelings expected of a romantic comedy, but only if you can make it past the first 6 episodes…
SUMMARY + BASIC PLOT PROGRESSION
As quickly as the young medical student acted by Choi Jin Hyuk (CJH) as Oh Chang Min and nutritionist Oh Jin-hee played by Song Ji Hyo (SJH) fall in love and get married, they also start to argue and reduce to emotional messes. Gone is the initial sweetness that lasted for about 5 minutes in their marriage scene. Instead, the highlight becomes a huge harrowing fight between them where they exchange shouts, screams and childish threats, the result of their deteriorating relationship. While this may have been an attempt at being comedic, the result is actually negativity between the couple that overwhelms any previously present positive vibes between them.
With their childish 5-year old behavior, SJH’s pathetic state of affairs and CJH’s self-centeredness amidst their desperation, it is no wonder they got divorced. With little explanation on context of their desperation, it was hard to find reasons to support their eventual expected reconciliation at all. It would have been perfectly fine for the plot to stop here. However, of course, years after, they meet each other awkwardly with the same off-putting immaturity between them.
With the lack of more appealing drama options at the time, I struggled on.
For a romantic comedy, Emergency Couple does not deliver on its namesake for a surprisingly long period of time. Instead, it is filled with drama, bitchiness and world building.
For most of episodes 2-6, the focus is placed on Oh Jin-hee as she faces challenges adapting to her new work environment, facing discrimination for being an older but not exceptional student along with her own personal and family affairs. Amongst her challenges are not screwing up in her work and getting fired, specific hospital emergencies, dealing with her family problems, and facing Chang-min and her dreaded ex-mother-in-law.
In this period of time, Chang-min as a character is generally sidelined, hence removing the possibility of romantic interaction between the two anymore. In fact, Chang-min’s character becomes somewhat antagonistic due to his childish pettiness, in a bid to protect his own interests. There is little room for redemption of his character at this point since he is solely focused on acting like an arrogant, rich and pampered high school student.
Add to this equation his crazed protective mother. As one of the most immature and unreasonable mother characters in K-dramas I have watched to date, Chang-min’s mother seemed to be able to throw tantrums at any given moment, with her childishness on par only with her supposed level in high society. Thus, it was somewhat inevitable for Jin-hee to gain audience’s sympathy despite her unsophisticated quirkiness. This turned out to be my main if not weak reason for continuing the show – to watch Jin-hee become the underdog.
The characters of the other fellow doctors are also established in during this arc, such as the Head Doctor (for lack of a better term) and the other interns.
If you have made it this far in the show, congratulations, you would have finally seen some light near the end of the tunnel.
Thanks to the development of relationship of the Head Doctor (2nd male lead) with SJH/Jin-hee, CJH/Chang Min’s character has finally changed for the better as he slowly notices his lingering feelings for SJH. For this reason, his character’s bastard-like personality slowly changes to be nicer, or at least more like a funny but angry lover who doesn’t admit jealousy.
At the same time, other relationships between the characters form, including potential alternative pairings for both CJH and SJH with the supporting characters. In addition, SJH’s character has finally made some breakthrough in gaining confidence as a doctor even though she may not have escaped trouble completely.
From Episode 10 onwards, Emergency Couple finally functions truly and reliably as a typically good K-drama. This short arc in particular is where the cute and romantic interactions and feels come in and in full swing.
CJH evolves into a caring and very sweet (unofficial) boyfriend even as his relationship with SJH and her feelings remain unclear. He unexpectedly acknowledges his feelings upfront for SJH quickly and declares “war” with the 2nd male lead as well. Their interactions also allow them to reflect on their earlier marriage, with flashbacks that shed light onto their previous relationship.
Episode 14 -21
Here on out, the drama arguably descends from its climax and enters an arc of falling action of sorts. With the main characters’ relationships status still unclear, SJH’s potential feelings for the 2nd male lead and CJH’s familial crisis, the hope and happiness of episodes 10-13 die down.
CJH begins to question his suitability for SJH should they reconcile (despite having asked a few times already) as he struggles with familial expectations and problems that will eventually change his mother’s attitudes for the better. It is ironic that CJH does not acknowledge SJH’s feelings even when she decides to finally agree to reconcile with him. It is also interesting that the 2nd male lead’s chances are not destroyed or subtly removed completely until near the last few episodes.
Fortunately, the crisis and tragedy-arc is not as longwinded as the first arc. After CJH and SJH agree to get back together, they enter another phase of sweet romantic interactions, even with SJH’s nephew (Baby Gook). From the family crisis, CJH’s mother eventually shows more likeability as a character as she mellows down from the incident and has made it clear that she will not be interfering with their relationships anymore and even formed a subtle understanding with SJH’s mother.
Meanwhile, all the other couples and supporting characters either do get pairings or seem to get paired up with someone else by the end of the show. While the ending is predictable in a decent way, thankfully there was no rush for CJH and SJH’s characters to both get married as a way to end the show.
That’s all for today.
~ Jerna (@jernahorizon)
For sources of GIFs and more drama content, check out our Tumblr @ shoujoinvestigation.tumblr.com!
New Hyun Bin Drama Thoughts – Feb 7, 2015 – Feb 22, 2015
(A spoiler-filled scene by scene commentary)
Jekyll, Hyde and I (JHI) – the title which I will address it as I knew it before.
Unfortunately, since I was watching this on my phone, screenshots of the actual episode will not be included.
This is admittedly a very late commentary considering the show’s run, but in any case, here goes.
Having read the synopsis online and the title in earlier anticipation of the drama, I already had reservations of what I was getting myself into. “3rd generation chaebol”, “split personality”, “girl falling in love with other personality” – other than the actual psychiatric disorder of Dissociative Identity disorder, all these were reminiscent of what I thought was the magnificent failure of Taiwan drama Fall In Love With Me starring Aaron Yan. Nonetheless, being powered by admiration for Hyun Bin from his performance in Secret Garden, I decided to give it a shot anyway (since my drama mood seemed to be recovering).
In the first scene, Hyun Bin is shown at some circus platform in a somewhat hazy setting. A kid runs into him with a balloon tied to his back. Being the block of wood that he is, Hyun Bin’s character just stands there and does not avoid his face being rudely blocked. Furthermore, logic was such that to remove the balloon from his face, he was to flick it away for a convenient shot for the camera to reveal his handsome face in a nerdy getup. Of course, being a balloon and TIED rather securely, the balloon quickly floats back to his face.
And then, the first traces of Hyun Bin’s character’s personality is revealed to be that of an asshole as he nonchalantly pulls away the balloon from the child and lets him stand there crying.
(Unimportant spoiler part: the scene continues when he notices a disco ball about to fall on a girl walking under it and waits to the last second to barely save her from being hit. Of course, this is later revealed to be a dream.)
Hyun Bin then wakes up to be in his own room and suddenly terribly concerned about his heart rate. Having read the synopsis beforehand, I understand the circumstances, but perhaps to some extent, those who haven’t may be confused as to who is this Robin? (I can’t speak much for that but they do suggest in very non-explicit ways that he has a split personality)
Then my next important comment – Hyun Bin rushes into his lush and luxurious indoor garden which can only remind me of Kyoya’s indoor pool resort as shown in Ouran High School Host Club (the anime and manga) minus the actual water bodies. Then he proceeds to doing yoga and lowering heart rate with high tech equipment around him to monitor his readings, all in pattern print pants that look like the next potential replacement meme for Kim Joo Won’s (of Secret Garden) sparkling sports jacket.
Along comes his side-kick assistant that is already less identifiable than the face that was Kim Joo Won’s Assistant Kim although it is predictable they will play the exact same role. They discuss more about the heart rate and Hyun Bin’s dream while Hyun Bin strategically changes into his work clothes. Despite being a Hyun Bin fan, I have to admit Hyun Bin’s body isn’t hot. It’s definitely not as sculpted as someone like Song Seung Heon’s so well… (Hyun Bin’s chest is quite simply just there and serves no purpose as a result.) Producers, it is fine to not include such changing shots for fan service because it’s not that effective.
They proceed on to the grounds of the setting, which is a theme park named Wonderland which now only seems to be a Korean Disneyworld without the actual cartoon themes. Personally, this just seemed lacking in creativity and somewhat of an excuse for interaction between a character with a physically active career and an otherwise standard chaebol. Wait, this already sounds like Secret Garden… Instead of stuntwoman with barely any career-related interactions and proactive stalking by Kim Joo Won, JHI has already created a setting for more interaction given it will not be love at first sight now (oops spoiler).
Then Hyun Bin’s character proceeds to solidify his standing as a complete childish asshole that for some reason is still in a position of power. Having been scarred from his dream with balloons, he demands that his theme park with myriads of children to be removed of balloons and have even balloon-looking items banned with zero consideration for how it would affect a business at all.
Having watched Secret Garden before, it occurred to me that “Hey, Kim Joo Won didn’t exactly show business prowess either in his role.” However, it still occurred to me that he did still partake in superficially professional business roles and deals such as in convincing his cousin to remain as an endorser for his company. Here, not so much.
In addition to a self-centred and childish boss, now his theme park lets loose a gorilla from the circus (supposedly) whereby a) there is no one staff running to catch after it or warn of this danger b) security is non-existent and does nothing to ensure the safety of the patrons c) the boss and his entourage are completely clueless and helpless with dealing with the situation. Why do I not want to be anywhere close to this Wonderland now?
For some reason, amongst the crowds dispersing and running away for dear life, this one lady decides to run towards this nerdy looking guy in a suit frozen in position (yes, Hyun Bin) and asks for help (literally “save me, Ahjussi”) instead of running away with the rest of the world. To make matters worse, guess what this amazingly rich chaebol does? Book his place as a top asshole. He not only tries to shake away this pesky lady from holding on to him, but he quickly decides to even childishly BITE on the lady’s hand to make her let go. Following that, he PUSHES HER AWAY DIRECTLY into the direction of the gorilla and flees to climb up the roof of a nearby stall, even aided by his underlings. All I could do was LMAO.
If it was not Hyun Bin acting this character, I am pretty sure I would already be cursing at this little piece of shit’s uselessness. I mean, are you freaking kidding me? This useless idiot character is the main lead? orz The childishness of Kim Joo Won combined with utter incompetency without reason for any adoration.
Okay, maybe I haven’t given the character enough of a chance yet. He grabs out his gear and finally calms down and lowers his heart rate from a dangerous level of 150. He takes off his gear and seems ready for action. What are you going to do, Hyun Bin? Spring into action? Command authority? Make a decisive game plan?
Apparently not… He does what a big boss should have done long ago – contact his staff and asks them about the situation and preparation for an emergency. However, he simply asks them if they are prepared, not even giving directions on how to possibly strategize to deal with it in a more efficient manner. Of course, no one also seems to care that scared visitors are for some reason encircling the beast instead of running away.
The staff finally arrives with some equipment but look as helpless as a non-professional approaching this creature they’ve never seen before in their lives. And these people turn out to be the people supposedly in charge of the circus where this animal could only have been at. -_-“
They weakly shoot a tranquiliser dart that ends up bouncing off the gorilla’s chest, agitating it further. Then comes the girl who heard about the news while in a taxi and all she does is call out the gorilla’s name “Bing Bing” and the beast is surprisingly tamed after dashing through a path of scared humans and seemed to be waiting to body slam the girl.
This is also ridiculous because I believe no trained professional would still go to that extent of not preparing any strategies to calm the beast down. All she did was call out her name and open her arms wide for a hug that never came. Not even trying to grab the gorilla’s attention, or lean in to seem more approachable and friendly to the beast. In fact, the beast could apparently see her and recognise her voice far away all through a ring of humans enough to dash its way through it. True enough, the girl is the next circus master coming to take over who the gorilla regards almost like a mother having been there in its childhood.
Reporters come, but not much outrage. A PR statement from this lady who hasn’t officially taken up her post and all is well. Okay, I won’t put too much importance on this.
Then out of selfishness to understand his increased heartrate, he forcibly calls up the girl to his office. Why would your heart rate increase upon seeing a gorilla about to pounce on a girl? Well, maybe out of good conscience? After all, that girl might be killed? No of course not, wonders Hyun Bin’s character (whose name I still have yet to remember). Upon seeing the girl, he does absolutely nothing but pulls her into close proximity to him for squealing fans in front of their electronic devices. What? Why?? This seemed nothing as much as fan service reminiscent of Secret Garden’s sudden close proximity with Gil A Rim to examine her wound. In this case, the purpose is even less precise and more socially awkward, since he simply stares at the girl and observes his heart rate as shown on his high-tech Bluetooth-linked spectacles.
Once he is done, he lets her go. By the way, they barely know each other *cough cough* and you expect viewers to somehow ship them together already?! Please…
He even does not consider talking any business with her until he finally tells her simply “Oh I am closing down the circus”. Obviously, this girl didn’t get the memo when she publicly announced herself as the new incoming circus master. The reasoning is superficial and terribly casual and ruins the poorly constructed illusion of a setting that this drama revolved around.
In any case, to throw the girl off, he pacifies her by lying to say that her contract will be not be terminated when in actual fact moments later he actually does otherwise. The girl being the stereotypical headstrong “let’s stand up for ourselves and our rights!” character, trails the immature and useless main character as he miraculously hears from his doctor about a cure for his split personality. While the girl is at first stopped outside the hospital, she cannot be prevented from entering a public compound (if I remember correctly). Somehow she deduces the exact location or direction that Hyun Bin is heading to in this otherwise empty hospital. Given her circus background, why am I not surprised to see her zip-line down (yes, zip-line from building to building with zero safety equipment) to what happens to be the exact office of Hyun Bin’s doctor.
A side note, but Hyun Bin’s doctor’s room looks terribly similar to the brown wooden interior that was I Can Hear Your Voice’s public defendant office. I discovered that at least the broadcasting channel SBS was the same for both dramas so my deduction may be right. I thought this would only be something that Hong Kong or China dramas would be more obvious with. In any case, I am still wondering why a doctor’s office is so much less white, more disorganised and not even clinic-like. It’s like a business office with its own coffee table and such. Or are Korean hospitals different from my knowledge?
While Hyun Bin happens to see this crazy lady zip-line across hospital buildings, no souls are present other than theirs and perhaps this is a good reason to question the hospital security already. Not only did a lady zip-line across buildings directly into the confidential and private space of a medical practitioner through a window, another stranger dressed in black heavily assaulted the doctor to break her glass coffee table and leave many bloodstains around the office. Of course, crazy gorilla lady here witnesses all this frenzy and eventually notices or sees the assailant. Hyun Bin soon arrives and his scaredy-cat nature proves useful for once as he instinctively dashes away from the crime scene for his life. (My memory of the exact episode procession at this point is a bit blurred.)
They run away, not together but at the same time. The drama then takes a sudden turn into the mood of City Hunter or another police action film with dramatic running scenes of mostly running through hallways in a swift but aesthetic manner. What a combination of moods this show has been so far, eh? Hyun Bin eventually reaches the lift and successfully enters it himself. However, the girl being behind him is just several feet away from him barely makes it before the door begins to close on her. The assailant catches up and (iirc) grabs the legs of the girls and pulls her away as one could imagine in a horror film. The only difference is that it was broad daylight with plenty of light indoors and Hyun Bin was out to display his prowess as a hopeless asshole again – he purposefully kicked the girl’s clawing hands from interfering with his lift and rapidly pressed close on the lift button.
Soon, the girl is helplessly carried away to her doom at a roof instead of simply assaulting her or killing her as it seems had been done before. Somehow Hyun Bin’s actually likable alter ego Robin drudgingly makes his long-awaited appearance. After all, anyone else with a semi-decent and normal personality would be a refreshing change at this point. While in the safety of the lift, main character’s heart rate exceeds the 150 threshold. While it was described by the main character to seemingly release a beast, having read the synopsis, we all know it is actually a nicer human being that the main character is so afraid of.
The lift scene is, again, reminiscent of Secret Garden scenes. In Secret Garden, Hyun Bin also had a trauma and tragic past that made him claustrophobic. He also had a very dramatic scene in a lift in which somewhat explains his claustrophobia. Here, in a lift again, I could not help but see the many similarities that were almost lifted from Secret Garden. After much agonising, Hyun Bin as main character slowly becomes limp in position before straightening up again in a Superman kneeling position. Dude, did you just eat some anti-kryptonite serum or something? No really, he looked like Superman ready to fly off to save the world.
And save the girl, at least, he does. While the masked assailant procrastinates in the elimination of a key witness, Robin has time to run up to the roof (no idea how he guessed) and engage in a little bit of a tussle with him/her. However, the girl having been left literally hanging off the edge of a building soon falls off into a conveniently located water body or pond located within the hospital. This is when superhero Robin also decides to heroically jump after the girl to grab her in time (not sure whether physics would allow this since my physics sucks) and seemingly protect her from the main impact of the fall into water.
(Another) Trope Comparison! Anybody else remembered Tamaki jumping off the cliff to save Haruhi in Ouran High School Host Club?! http://mangafox.me/manga/ouran_high_school_host_club/v03/c008/31.html
No seriously, the whole jumping after the girl into a pool of water is… not original that is the least to say. Nonetheless, it seems still rather useless given that unlike Tamaki, Robin didn’t jump in to be able to pull her out of the water. Instead, he simply hugged her and they both sank into the water slowly… How exactly they got saved when there were no other souls in the hospital is another problem. Or is it that I have been reading too much manga too?
But at this point, I have learnt that it is easier not to ask questions about this drama anymore.
The first episode ended with the asshole main character acted by Hyun Bin awaking in the hospital and wondering if his better alter ego did show up and everyone wondering if Robin did save the girl. I’m not sure if anyone remembered the doctor though (lol). As to whether or not I continue this drama will depend on how much free time I have and whether or not I am willing to waste spend it on this train-wreck of an unintended comedy.
~ Jerna (@jernahorizon)
RATING: 2.8 stars out of 5 OR 6.5/10 score
Who doesn’t like the occasional eye candy? I admittedly am still in a drama rut, but out of curiosity, I went to find out about what shows Ji Chang Wook (JCW) was in after seeing him in a mainland China variety show. Although I started because Park Min Young (PMY) was also in it to give the show more credibility in acting props, I probably stayed for JCW in the end.
Arguably a media-based alternative to City Hunter, Healer predictably features a handsome male lead at odds against the elite and bigshots of society. Using questionable, shady but cool methods, the main characters seek truth and justice from the secrets stemming from their parents’ generation.
Due to the similarities between City Hunter and Healer, there will be plenty of City Hunter comparisons, for better or for worse.
(Scroll to the bottom for a TL;DR :P)
Just as Healer is a mystery to those who know him, the story begins with a lot of question marks as well as the audience is thrown into one action-packed job of Healer. The relationships between the different characters are then slowly established just as the fates of the main leads slowly become intertwined again. There is a certain air of uncertainty as a result to how the story would progress. How would the leads meet and get to know each other? How would their respective pasts relate to each other?
Although this would mean that Healer’s plot and pacing would be less action-packed and tightly woven than City Hunter’s, I highly appreciated this aspect of Healer. Healer is able to let the audience experience the story and atmosphere the same way that the characters would – with uncertainty and questions. In addition, the absence of City Hunter’s parental revenge plot as the main plot driver spared the audience from unnecessary angst, pain, darkness and heavy hearts, enabling Healer to become a more light-hearted drama.
The uncertainty and constant air of mystery creates a good atmosphere for slowly revealing the antagonists that the characters are against as a result. Moving towards unknown circumstances and unknown enemies, the audience would be intrigued to see what strategies and methods they would use in their counter-attacks. After all, the concept of using the media to attack as well as protect oneself is not commonly explored in dramas.
Healer also performs well in allocating good focus to each of the main characters and the antagonists, hence diversifying the perspectives of viewing the circumstances given individual character’s stakes and attempting character development.
In terms of plot progression, Healer was fairly good in providing rising action and new sources of conflict, albeit not providing much clarity on the motivations behind it necessarily. However, over time, I felt like the rising action soon plateaued and the climax that should have come never did.
Similarly, the potential that Healer had slowly got diminished as the drama end drew closer. With more mysteries than answers, it is no wonder that rushed plot holes were eventually resorted to in order to end the story on a good note.
While my enjoyment of the show never reached that of true fangirl-ing, it was greatly affected as the drama soon drew to a close and the last final showdown arc was disappointing to say the least. There were many aspects of the story that I questioned throughout the last episode which either confused me or made no sense. In some ways, it was also anticlimactic for the characters in how their relationship with each other suddenly made up and got better. However, those details will be spared here to avoid spoilers.
As for action scenes, not being an expert in action choreography, I will keep it brief. Having less sources of action than City Hunter, there is admittedly less action and fighting scenes in Healer than City Hunter. Most of the fighting is hand-to-hand combat in which Healer rarely ever fails. In contrast to the raised stakes and hastened heart rates when City Hunter’s life hangs in the balance, Healer’s action scenes seem less exciting since there is little threat to Healer’s physical existence.
In terms of romantic development, the aspect of shoujo feels will be discussed in the last section of Enjoyment & Feels.
In terms of plot however, Healer is not spared from its fair share of cliches and tropes. Much of its romantic interaction stems from a very predictable set that dramas often use. This includes saving the damsel in distress (very often) to being saved from complete emotional breakdown only by the female lead, and the unexpected childhood relationship shared between the leads (to increase their fated-to-be-ness). Thankfully while tropes are in full use, they are still not used to the point of frustration or leaving a bad taste in one’s mouth.
With a relationship that is rather enshrined in tropes, Healer takes a lot of hints from City Hunter in terms of romantic development. This begins with protecting the girl with your amazing alter ego to getting close to her in real life in a work environment, out of curiosity and also by fate making them both cross paths time and again. This curiosity and eventual infatuation would then conflict with their alter ego’s position whereby they would have to try to distance their alter egos from their loved one in vain.
It should no longer be a secret that Healer will eventually reveal his identity or acknowledge it to the female lead, but unexpectedly Healer is able to make some minor changes to this scene from City Hunter. Due to the lightheartedness of this show, there are probably more scenes of romantic interaction in absolute numbers than in City Hunter. However, rather than being dispersed throughout the show in City Hunter, my qualm with Healer is in how the romantic development is concentrated in specific arcs rather than slowly nurturing support for their relationship. There was even a point in the drama where their romantic relationship was so strange and odd that their actions could have been interpreted in a completely satirical way to portray them as delusional.
On a personal note, although both leads did their roles well, I did not feel the chemistry between them as a couple.
Nonetheless, the romance between Healer and the female lead should still be notably commended as it includes GOOD COMMUNICATION!!! (*claps for you*)
This is because Healer spares audiences from the unnecessary angst and frustration from the stereotypical eye-roll-worthy scenes. Namely, this would be the typical act of “leaving your loved one for their own good” without a proper explanation even after getting together. Hence, the loved ones are left in the dark about the life-threatening circumstances the main character face alone, which may or may not cause misunderstandings (which I’m sure City Hunter had). Instead, the female lead acted by PMY is kept in the loop when it comes to important decision-making after their getting together, and provides emotional support to JCW in times of desperation.
Altogether, Healer is City Hunter’s less-intense substitute in which 30% of City Hunter’s action would be replaced as 15% light-hearted comedy and 15% more attempted character development and romantic interaction (which will be discussed later).
Healer V.S. City Hunter Similarities:
There’s probably much more, but there is not much point in continuing the list now.
Being in the range of typical k-dramas (refer to: City Hunter), it is not surprising that character development is not its main strength. Honestly, all the characters in Healer have remained generally 2-dimensional stereotypes and molds in my impression. However, oddly enough, there were aspects of Healer’s characters that made it slightly more unique. For instance, some of its characters had somewhat more unusual character molds and hence actually had more potential for realistic portrayal even if that potential was not realized.
In general, all the characters are fairly likable, or at least not hated on, from the main characters to the antagonists themselves. There are visible attempts at character development that should be commended upon. From creating tragic backstories for the main leads to giving the perspective of the antagonists, Healer does well in giving balance to all the characters’ roles in the story. Unfortunately, “attempts” is the key word as these attempts seem incomplete and lack depth to be truly impressionable and break free from stereotypes as described below.
JCW: Healer – City Hunter’s Alter Ego
Simply: the cool, handsome, ultra-skilled but sometimes awkward source of comedy
A mystery from the start, Healer’s origin and motivations are unclear, except for the fact that he practically wants to be a hikkikomori on an uninhabited island he wishes to purchase (as revealed in the first episode introduction) using his earnings from dealings as Healer. And then you wonder “What does owning an uninhabited island as a goal have much to do with the plot/Healer (as a character)?”
The answer is: It doesn’t. Perhaps it was an attempt to show character development in Healer’s motivations (aptly compared in GIF form on Tumblr) as it changed in the show, but I did not personally feel it. (GIF set found here: http://itsloveitsokay.tumblr.com/post/110835451058/e01-vs-e20)
Generally, I don’t have the strong impression that Healer had strong character development of any kind. While he faced challenges and problems as the main character, it is hard to say that he actually experienced much difficulty overcoming them. Rather, he more or less always coolly saved the day or damsel in distress even if there was some slight hiccup.
Unlike in City Hunter where Lee Eun Song often faced life-threatening situations, Healer’s greatest threat was in fact the possibility of revealing his identity to the world, the police and any other people who wanted to hunt him down or attempted threats to his loved ones. The irony is that when it did eventually happen, the threat that it posed seemed to be swept under the carpet.
The greatest appeal of Healer was perhaps how it extracted some of the fun concepts from City Hunter and took the opportunity to maximize its potential, namely the necessity to dress up in different outfits and act with different personalities. Hence the existence of 2nd alter ego Park Bong Soo, Healer’s undercover identity to work at the third-rate media company where the story unfolds.
Compared to City Hunter where Lee Eun Song’s personality remains cool and charming no matter in real life or as City Hunter, Park Bong Soo was well-utilized in Healer as a source of comedy and plot mechanism to let the main characters have more interaction with each other.
Ji Chang Wook hence earned his fair share of eye-candy points with his performance as the cute, bumbling, weak and awkward Park Bong Soo while balancing his cool, capable but lazy real identity as a 宅男 (shut-in/hermit guy), *cough* I mean, Healer.
Another less prominent personality that JCW undertook was the punkish, unknowing, happy-go-lucky Seo Jung-hoo (Healer’s real name) that supposedly returned from abroad and got into contact with their old family friends (from the first JCW gif).
JCW even got a chance to show his acting props with an emotional arc as well when the necessary character death is utilized to pull emotional heartstrings.
In general, while JCW’s performance was pretty good and convincing, the character of Healer and his many other alter-egos were limited by standard character stereotypes and clichés such as having only the female lead be his “weakness”, only revealing his “true self” to her and being completely invincible and infallible.
PMY: Chae Young Shin – The (Chosen) One
Simply: “bright/cheerful and mediocre, less-skilled but unique sunflower in the ocean of other people” female lead.
It is hard not to compare Healer with City Hunter thanks to the added fact that both female leads were played by Park Min Young… Thankfully, there have been changes made to the female lead’s role in the show compared to Healer.
While in City Hunter, PMY’s Nana character was truly an outsider from the entanglement brought in by her love for the City Hunter, Chae Young Shin in Healer is a pivotal character in the storyline where her involvement is essential.
In the beginning, CYS is portrayed as a cheerful, optimistic and ambitious young reporter, but with mediocre skills, qualifications etc. However, it soon becomes increasingly clear how incredulous and unique her background truly is, not only with her biological family but also her upbringing in her foster family.
However, despite some unique attributes given to her in that respect, CYS’s character also lacked good character development despite its potential. For example, CYS’s fear of watching violence not only left unanswered questions onto her childhood experiences but also became the excuse for Healer to swoop in and save her without outright describing CYS as “weak”.
Although there were attempts to show character development in her becoming a better reporter, those changes were not particularly significant in my opinion in changing how she would be as a character throughout the show. Even though she became more capable in terms of reporting skill, it is hard not to consider it something that was “bestowed” upon her by the two male leads of Healer and her daddy-long-legs equivalent, Kim Moon Ho who gave her plenty of guidance and opportunities before she rose to the challenge herself.
One commendable point for Chae Young Shin was probably how her character was naturally quirky especially with her interactions with Park Bong Soo that Park Min Young was able to showcase well. Not being the tall beauty stereotype, her character was given its imperfections through her quirks such as her strange behavior after getting drunk.
Compared to Nana of City Hunter, CYS is notably less capable. However, thankfully CYS’s character did not simply collapse into being only a romantic interest in the show like Nana eventually did in City Hunter. Where Nana was slowly becoming an annoyance and hindrance to City Hunter’s operations, CYS was able to play a useful sidekick next to Healer.
While not a completely useless or stereotypical female lead, Chae Young Shin started out as the persistent, persevering, optimistic and strange sunbae (senior) and pretty much remained the same until the end.
Kim Moon Ho– The Merlin
Simply: the expert, well-known power player in the societal context that decides to bestow his skills and influence to help the main leads which have become his “chosen ones”.
The brother of the shady antagonist, Kim Moon Ho is an unusual character type to expect in such a drama. KMH is introduced as a famous reporter who stubbornly pursues controversial stories despite repercussions on his company and superiors. His job is ironically saved by the backing of his brother who is also in the media industry even though KMH’s reporting seeks to expose secrets and dealings like those of his brother.
While KMH’s character role is first unclear beyond being the inspiration of CYS, it slowly becomes evident that he holds crucial information relating to the main leads as he soon becomes involved in their lives and realizes their true identity and relation to himself. From then, he becomes a protector character to a displeased Healer and an unknowing CYS.
KMH becomes the Merlin, or fairy godmother in fact, to CYS when he hears that her aspirations are to be a good reporter like himself. He takes her under his wing by pulling his brother’s strings, once again, to mentor her directly at her third-rate news company. With KMH as the main strategist in their media exposés, KMH becomes the leader in their makeshift combined attack against Healer’s enemies and the unknown bigshots driving the inequalities and injustices of society.
Despite the strange character type that KMH is, his character is appropriately flawed in ways that affect the plot. This includes his self-protectionist mentality, his secretive nature and his internal conflict between his family and justice given his position. KMH was also given opportunity to have some negligible character development in the form of his previous failed relationship.
As a whole, Kim Moon Ho was probably the most interesting character even though there was also minimal growth in his character as well. Although his character was not really likeable in my opinion, I enjoyed how the actor managed to inject charm into KMH.
Ahjumma – That Always Invincible Hacker
Simply: the reliable and highly important background technical support and advisor to Healer
I thought it would never come, but even Ahjumma has a backstory given to her!
Although she remained a mysterious figure whose skills and abilities were not discussed for 80% of the drama, her “origin” story provides a more realistic understanding towards her motivations. However, given the little screen time that Ahjumma has other than simply deftly typing away fantastic code commands into her computers, it is only understandable that Ahjumma’s backstory still leaves many questions unanswered about her.
This is somewhat of a pity to me because the development of her backstory would probably be quite interesting in my opinion.
The Korean Illuminati: Kim Moon Shik – The Shady Antagonist
+ The Elder – The Shadier Older Antagonist
For Kim Moon Shik, his existence as an antagonist was interesting thanks to his position in the parental generation secret, his troublemaking brother, as well as his love for his wife. Although he was one of early antagonists, his role as the instigator gradually faded out into that of an executor of orders as the Elder character showed up. Although his methods are indeed rather ruthless, when KMS’s motivations and past are revealed later in the story, his character’s internal conflict made him one of the more realistically written characters.
The Elder, put simply, is the head of the hinted equivalent of Illuminati in Korea. Headed to choose the leaders of the next generation and manipulate the greater society for their benefit, they would govern and rule others just like stubborn old men would – assuming they are always infallibly right and forcing others to listen to them because of their seniority (and power) alone. All powerful and all-controlling, the Elder with the Illuminati becomes the formidable opponent against the small band of people related to Healer by controlling a band of other shady lackeys meant to find, beat up and capture those people related to Healer and Healer himself.
Music / OST
For this K-drama, I surprisingly was not able to find many popular fan videos using the OST on YouTube to give me a preview and trailer of the show. And after watching the show, the reason became more apparent.
K-dramas are probably known to be consistently good in the production of their Original Soundtracks and provide such a good curation of music that can be used for every emotion being squeezed out of the audience’s heart. Strangely though, this drama did not have a good OST to me.
Other than the first title track with no vocals, I did not find any of the songs memorable, and sometimes even found them somewhat annoying in the show. I was not inclined to find out what were the songs played at certain instances (except the Healer title soundtrack here) and only remember the existence of 2 other songs that were played in the drama despite its somewhat extensive listing.
While some songs were directed towards certain dramatic emotions, I did not appreciate the singing that became repetitive and in hindsight reminds me of melodramatic crying/moaning. For me, some of the songs in fact interrupted the otherwise good atmosphere created in the show which made me want to remove the soundtrack from a few scenes altogether.
For the one title song Healer that I actually appreciated, it caught me on first impression. It captured the cool, somewhat tech-related feel of the drama with its electronic sound, but provided bursts of energy and had its own rise-and-fall in mood that it created. Just as some fans had noted that they will remember Healer running across rooftops to this song, I will remember Healer with this song alone.
Other than that, it seems that Ji Chang Wook actually sang a song in the OST listing of this drama. Of course I have zero recollection of hearing anything that sounds remotely like Ji Chang Wook though. So perhaps when I am bored I should go find that song of his just to see if I remember hearing it at all.
Ji Chang Wook’s Healer OST Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPxI2WebjjE
Feels & Enjoyment
Finally, it has come to the discussion of Shoujo Feels~. It’s no secret that I often watch dramas to satisfy my need for shoujo feels. Unfortunately, I would not consider Healer a very good source for it at all.
This is because for much of the first half of the drama, there is little romantic interaction and reason to support them romantically. For the little interaction they might have had, perhaps their chemistry as actors was insufficient for me too. As mentioned before, Healer has a major problem of distribution of romantic scenes in which they were mostly compressed into 1 episode specifically.
SPOILER (?) ALERT: The 10 minutes of compressed romantic interaction in a single episode did not earn much of a single internal squeal for me. Other than those 10 minutes, real romantic interaction did not amount to much. While they did have quite a number of kissing scenes, it seemed disappointing that their relationship had no development in other aspects to make me want to support them as a couple in the show. They even had a very similar romantic scene of sitting next to each other at the back of the bus, reminiscent of City Hunter even though it was completely unnecessary in this context.
It was more disappointing personally, having seen some clips of those romantic reactions well documented on Tumblr and having raised hopes that my feels would be satisfied.
However, apart from the lack of feels to enhance enjoyment, Healer was still fairly enjoyable to watch for its strength in plot (for the most part) and of course, Ji Chang Wook. With the increased comedy aspect of Healer, just watching JCW acting as a lazy shut-in or being bullied as Park Bong Soo was adorable. In addition, Healer added a component of romance that City Hunter had failed to include: the Meet-the-Parents session. Apart from JCW, much of the comedic relief otherwise came from the office co-workers to CYS’s father and family friend and their interactions, giving them good value as characters to be noticed.
TL;DR: Story – Media-version of City Hunter, more comedy, more romance, less dark and serious
Characters – Somewhat different with good potential but still 2-dimensional
Romance – Meh. Not great, really.
Enjoyment – Not that bad, good for casual drama entertainment
In conclusion, Healer is fairly decent as a casual k-drama to watch. While its premise and romance are fairly cliché and predictable, its unique portrayal of plot and somewhat different characters give audiences something refreshing at the same time.
Apologies for the super long review. -.-”
~ Jerna (@jernahorizon)