Series Review: Doctor Stranger (SBS)

Note: this was originally posted on a different blog, but I’m moving it here because it’s more relevant. It written in July of 2014.

Warning: Spoilers for all 20 episodes of DS.

Park Hae Jin in Doctor Stranger via PHJ's Weibo.

Park Hae Jin in Doctor Stranger via PHJ’s Weibo.

I was first introduced to Park Hae Jin on old episodes of Family Outing, a show which I still adore (though only that first season). Up until deciding to watch Doctor Stranger, the extent of my watching PHJ was a handful of episodes of My Love From Another Star*. I like him for all the superficial reasons, but I had no idea what he was like as an actor. Sure, he seemed to do a good job in those 5 (I think?) episodes of MYFAS, but that’s not enough to really go on. Plus, I’d heard great things about Lee Jong Suk (and he’s in at least one thing I want to watch). And while I don’t really like medical dramas, I figured this might be interesting. After all, a guy escapes from North Korea and becomes a doctor, it sounds good!

And those first couple of episodes? They were brilliant. All the back story that built up LJS’s character was incredibly well done. The cinematography, plot, and acting were spot on. And then the show caught up to read time and devolved into a mess. It wasn’t immediate and I didn’t quite realize what was going on. I liked LJS’s tears and PHJ’s ice cold demeanor. I thought the show had potential … and I guess it did? And maybe that’s the root of the problem. It had so much potential that I kept watching in hopes that it might realize the potential.

For example, the early scenes between Jin Se Yeon (Jae Hee/Seung Hee) were exception and understated. Many of flirty scenes between LJS and Kang So Ra’s Soo Hyun were promising because their chemistry was palpable. This was a storyline I wanted to follow. And the true reveal (for what we already knew or perhaps I guessed) about PHJ’s character’s true identity finally gave me something to hold onto. Revenge makes for good drama (I did quite enjoy Golden Cross) and I thought that, perhaps, PHJ would get to (no pun intended) act on it. Unfortunately none of these story lines carried through from one episode to the next, much less throughout the whole show.

When Hoon (LJS) discovers that his first love has come back, there’s no chemistry. When Soo Hyun and Jae Joon (PHJ) have scenes together, there’s almost no chemistry — which in this case is not the actor’s fault. All the Hoon and Soo Hyun scenes have shown us who should end up together. It’s only the interactions between Chang Yi (played exceptionally well by Sistar’s Bora) and Hoon as well as Chang Yi and her love interest, Chi Gyu (played by Lee Jae Won, who was in H.O.T, which I had no idea), that were consistently entertaining throughout the whole show. That’s pretty sad, guys.

And yet, in spite of all of this — the bad acting, the plot holes as big as the Lake Michigan, and the nonsensical episodes, I KEPT WATCHING. I don’t know if it was the magnetic power of  PHJ’s beauty or the chance I might get to see LJS cry again — or maybe it’s as simple as watching a train wreck (at least no one was actually hurt) when you can’t look away. It wasn’t hate watching, because I never actually hated the show (that’s what Level 7 Civil Servant devolved into — it took a sheer force of will to keep watching it). But there was something that kept me watching.

I’ll probably never know and, to be frank, I’m fine with not knowing. Why? Because it’s over. I never, ever have to watch it again.

And I’ll end on this note. Every time someone asked me about the show/what I was watching, I would struggle to describe it, except to say that Doctor Stranger took place in the single worst hospital ever. I still stand by that statement. That being said, though. I’m looking forward to watching LJS in I Hear Your Voice and PHJ in his new murderer/serial killer (?) role. And maybe one day I’ll finish YWCFTS.

*It’s not quite a year later (give it a few months) and while I’ve watched some more of YWCFTS/MLFAS (My Love From Another Star) I don’t think I’ll ever be able to finish it. It’s just terrible, or at least terrible to me (and my friend who is currently powering through). Sorry, PHJ.

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Series Review: Bad Guys (OCN)

If you’ve learned nothing from reading this blog, you probably picked up on the idea that I like watching crime shows and that I enjoy Korean dramas and when you combine them? I’m a very happy camper. Add to that mix actors I like and you have a potentially winning combination. Now as we all know, that doesn’t always work. In fact, more often than not, shows usually aren’t that good. But luckily one of my favorite drama-producing stations in South Korean (cable channel OCN) decided to give me exactly what I wanted: a dark, gritty crime drama starring Park Hae Jin, an actor I really like. The drama is called Bad Guys and it is really good (I wish y’all could watch this, but finding it with English subs is tricky).

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And, to be honest, by really good I mean amazing. The story is as follows. Washed up Detective Oh Goo Tak (far right in the suit) decides that the only way he can solve serious (and violent) crimes is to use criminals to solve them. Using his influence as a mad dog detective (he bites criminals/etc), he forms his team. Assigned to work with him (aka try to keep him under control) is a young, though ambitious policewoman, Yoo Mi Young (standing up behind Oh Goo Tak). Between the two of them, they must keep their three criminal charges in line.

The criminals (L-R in the picture above): Lee Jung Moon (played by Park Hae Jin) the serial killer, Park Woong Chul the mob boss/muscle/etc and hired killer/assassin Jung Tae Soo. Together with the two police officers, they solve crimes. Of course, this isn’t some sort of charming drama where everyone lives happily ever after — all of these characters have secrets, some of them in the past and some of them occurring right as we’re watching the show.

Park Hae Jin as Lee Jung Moon

For each crime that the three criminals solve, they give five years shaved off their jail sentence, which works to motivate them. But each of the three criminals has their own stories. Lee Jung Moon, the serial killer, can’t remember killing any of the people he’s charged with killing. Park Woong Chul is in prison because he’s taken the fall for his gang (and he’s not happy about it for various reasons) and Jung Tae Soo is thinking about giving up killing. Each of these story lines play very significant and important parts in this drama.

They back all of that backstory into 10 episodes — add to that a few cases of the week, some police politics and the fact that Oh Goo Tak’s daughter was murdered two years earlier — we’re all left wondering just why did he pick those three men to help solve his crimes. We definitely get those answers and a whole hell of a lot more.

I loved Bad Guys because it was fun. I loved it because it made me cry in unexpected ways. The acting was exceptional and the story was strong — it was clear to me that the writers knew where they were going and how to get us there and that trip was really, really good. Hopefully Soompi or DramaFever will sub this so that everyone can enjoy it. I highly, highly recommend it.