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Kdrama Review: Hero (2012/OCN)

I’ve noticed, in recent months, that my tv watching habits are the same, no matter the language the TV show is in. Earlier this year, I watched a nine episode Korean drama called Hero. There are actually two dramas with this name, the first one (which I’ve also watched) was made in 2009 and stars one of my favorite actors, Lee Jun Ki. But this is the 2012 version, aired on OCN (and I watched it on Hulu). It’s really, really good.

I love crime dramas. I adore them. My favorite kdramas and non-kdramas are almost completely crime related (examples: (non-kdramas) AliasNCISCrossing Jordan, & Covert Affairs; (kdramas) Vampire ProsecutorTen, Joseon X-Files, & Ghost). That’s not to say that there aren’t other types of shows out there that I love, because there are plenty of other dramas/shows that aren’t crime dramas and I still love them (I’ll list them later, maybe). But what makes Hero so good is the fact that it’s science fiction crossed with a crime drama. It’s sort of a superhero origin story, with a morbid sort of twist.

The setting is the Korea, in the near future. You can tell from the grittiness of the of the poor neighbors to the glam of the rich. Our hero, as it were, is Kim Heuk Cheol (played by Yang Dong Geun). He’s the son of a very rich man and has a sister and a brother.  Heuk Cheol is a typical rich kid wannabe. Daddy’s money gets him everywhere, but it’s also Daddy’s money and love (albeit misguided) that makes  Heuk Cheol into the Hero. I’ll spare you the spoilers (you can watch the show on Hulu), but suffice to say that something bad happens and  Heuk Cheol’s dad pays a lot of money to save his son’s life.

It’s what comes after this that makes the show so good. Flawed heroes often make the best dramas and  Heuk Cheol is nothing if not flawed. He’s naive, he’s sort out of control and he’s kind of crazy. But he’s also trying hard to be a good guy. Each episode has a CotW (case of the week) that  Heuk Cheol sort of stumbles into (more often than not). All of these crimes are also uncovering secrets about  Heuk Cheol’s brother and father that he (and his family) would rather he not find out. But, of course, that’s what makes a good drama.  Heuk Cheol’s not alone, though. He works with an adorably geeky computer nerd, Shin Dong Min (played by Kwon Min). Heuk Cheol spoils Dong Min by providing him with really great tech (and giving us some really great scenes between the two of them). But, of course, my favorite character is  Yoon Yi On (played by Han Chae Ah). She’s a pretty bad ass cop (some of the best kdramas I’ve loved had badass female characters) who totally sees through Heuk Cheol, even as he’s trying to help (and usually failing).

The relationships in this drama are short lived, after all it’s only nine episodes. But the writing and acting is strong enough that I found myself caring about Heuk Cheol, about Yi On and Dong Min, along with a few other minor characters who play important roles. Over the course of those nine episodes, you watch relationships develop and while Heuk Cheol never quite wins the girl (I’m hoping they’ll make another season, like with Vampire Prosecutor on the same network), he does earn respect and figure things out. The final episode is a bit rushed, but then again, it’s almost meant to be. I adored the show, I loved every minute of the finale, even while I was crying my eyes out.

If you don’t mind watching on your computer (unless you subscribe to Hulu Plus) and reading subtitles, I completely recommend this drama. It’s fun, it’s well made and it mixes science fiction with crime drama in a well thought out way. And I didn’t even mention the Alfred-like character who looks out for Heuk Cheol, Yi On’s cop partner, some of the guest stars and other characters who flesh out this drama.

I gave it at 10/10, but your mileage may vary.

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