I’ve been reading so much criticism of this show that I decided to take a moment to throw my opinion into the fray as well.
First of all, I think this show is amazing so far. It’s like a fairy tale…set in modern times. My working definition of a fairy tale is an entertaining story, with a moral lesson(s) thrown in. Reality can be altered or suspended to a degree, but going overboard tends to alienate the reader/viewer.
The writer and PD of Yong Pal have a MO for the story–Go Big or Go Home.
Everything that can be over the top is fair game for this show to tackle, starting with the Hanshin Medical Center. I’ve seen some large hospitals/medical centers in my day. USC and UCLA Medical Centers wish they looked as cool and modern as Hanshin. UCLA is closer to Hanshin out of these two. (Yes, I’m biased!) The only hospital/medical center that could compete with Hanshin might be Cedar Sinai. I have to chuckle at the irony of a hospital with all that glass on the outside hiding so many secrets inside; it is anything but transparent. I could also “toss in” (pun intended) about living in glass houses and throwing stones. Every single character that works in that hospital is hiding something.
The room where YJ has been held hostage for 3 years in a drug-induced coma is also totally over the top. It looks like something that the PD and/or writer came up with after a couple of beers and watching a few episodes of Star Trek and Star Wars back to back. The bed/throne that YJ has–that has quite a sci-fi look to it. The fact that YJ can escape from 3 years of drug-induced sleep with as little muscle atrophy and weakness as she is shown to have also borders on the fringes of fairy-tale land plot devices. She stumbles just enough that TH has all kinds of opportunities to catch her when she stumbles, and give her piggy back rides. Nicely done, show!
The director and writer do a great job in the first few episodes to lay out the alternate universe that Yong Pal operates in. YP is operating on these gangsters with a backpack full of “swooped” medical supplies, in a non-sterile environment, with (occasionally) no anesthesia, crappy lighting, an untrained assistant, and no x-ray or other imaging to help diagnose the injuries. Just stitch ’em up and onto the next one. When he patches up the gangsters, YP doesn’t even wear scrubs or a protective coat–he uses an apron that looks suspiciously like the one the meat cutter at the local grocery store wears. It’s a ironic poke to make him look like a butcher–when we viewers know he is anything but that. Scrubs and a white coat are for Hanshin Hospital Use Only, where the real medical treachery occurs!
The bridge-jump scene in Episodes 1/2 also boggles the mind. Lemme see, let’s have TH make a minimum 50 foot jump into the water while carrying an injured Mob boss with a stab wound that needed surgery about an hour ago. Oh, yeah, don’t forget the epi-pen shot to give him and the mob boss that Superhero strength they’re gonna need! Others may see this as crazy. I see it as not just over-the-top plot maneuvering, but true bending of reality. No one takes Star Wars (another great modern fairy tale) seriously. There are no flying cars, talking golden robots or giant fuzzy Wookies that can drive a rickety spaceship past the speed of light in RL. That fact doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of a story set in (literally) an alternate universe. So why take this show seriously either? It’s pure fun, an adrenaline rush, and fully entertaining.
If there were any doubts about the “Go Big or Go Home” theme, Episode 4 and the “Have YP save Hanshin Medical Center and it’s innocent patients (including his sister) from a nuclear meltdown while the rich and powerful bail out” should put that to rest. Did this really happen in the 4th episode? OMG, how over the top was that? In any other show, that would be Episode 15 or 16; the big finale. Nope. Not in YP-Land! Viewers certainly can’t be in the dark about one thing–TH is one brave and badass dude. And his shirt is always Clorox white. I think he and Jang Tae Ho from “Last” have super secret dry cleaners we mortals don’t know about.
TH’s only flaw thus far–and it was one that made me really question whether or not I could watch this show–was his blaming of the girl who got beat and possibly raped by the K-pop star. TH’s comment that she went up to the hotel room looking for an easy path to stardom might have been true–but it does not give the pop star dude license to rape or to beat her for resisting his advances. (I thought both of them had been drinking as well. Lesson for all–don’t get drunk.) I wondered if it was the subbing translation that made it come across in that way. It was so out-of-character for TH to say something like that.
I also love that this show is not afraid to take on some of the most makjang things that can happen in a drama, and push those tropes past the edge of the envelope. Case in point: TH saves the life of the illegal immigrant woman by performing a C-Section on a kitchen table with one light bulb and the Patch ’em up Backpack. Right there, that’s pure insanity. Then she develops complications (no surprises here), and needs the services of Hanshin Medical Center. TH carries the unconscious new mom to the car, and then has a full minute-plus goodbye scene with YJ, including a hug! I had to laugh–it was so typical of a K-drama to do that–but how much more that there’s a woman and baby at death’s door in the car, and these two are having a Meaningful Conversation! It was like time stopped so the OTP could have a Tender Moment. So funny, and of course–the new mom and baby are just fine once they get checked into the VVIP ward aka the 12th floor of the Hanshin Medical Center, TYVM. How many times have we all seen a character get hurt in a Kdrama, only to have another character dilly-dally around wailing and not get help? This scene is almost laughable in that it’s the Priest who has to remind TH to get a move-on so no one dies in the SUV.
Here’s another trope this show turns upside down: In YP’s alternate universe, the cops are the bad guys, and the gangsters are the good guys. Over and over again, the police hassle TH, keep him on the run, and arrest him just as he’s trying to get the marriage registered so he can protect YJ. Doo Chul, the gangster boss has to intervene to save the day! How funny was that scene in Episode 12, where the assassin is in the trunk of the car with the “Gift” tag on him? (That concept was ‘borrowed’ straight up from City Hunter if my memory serves me correct!) By the way, Doo Chul mentioned that he was so sexy, and that all the women wanted him. Yunno why? ‘Cause he’s a man’s man; he’s bold, he’s a man of action, and he needs a wheelbarrow for his cojones. Plus the fact that he’s 60-something and he looks like he hits the gym on a daily basis. Yeah, he’s a dude Shamrockmom would definitely consider calling “Oppa”!
Let’s talk about Nurse Hwang for a moment; her death by being run over by the White Kdrama Truck of Doom (sent by Do Joon) was a nice twist. Instead of crossing the street, or being T-Boned in a car, she’s in a very rare place…a public pay phone booth. I have to hand it to this actress for playing someone who is obviously mentally disturbed so well. When Nurse Hwang called YJ “my doll”, I knew that she had taken her orders to watch over YJ way too seriously. Stephen King could write a spin-off novel just on her character.
Right behind NH in the Looney Line is Do Joon. I gotta wonder what happened to set this guy off on the tangent he’s on. From the flashbacks, it looks like he was a nice brother to YJ when they were little. But a lifetime of the father playing favorites, along with a loveless ‘business arrangement’ marriage has warped him into a megalomaniac who is truly dangerous because he’s got money and fear backing him up. I am sure his mom’s alcoholic tendencies and eventual death by suicide didn’t exactly make for a mentally stable environment either. The way he turned the situation at the Funeral/Coronation so that YJ looked like the nutcase was brilliant.The writer must have ripped that whole scene, and the one where everyone bows to DJ while wearing the Special Gray Tie right out of a sageuk. It’s absolutely fantastic. Jo Hyun Jae is marvelous playing the unhinged Do Joon; I had not seen him in a drama before. I will need to check out some of his other shows.
Another complaint about this show I heard was that the “Lovey-Dovey” episodes 7-9 were too draggy, and the plot seemed to go off the rails. I disagree. Those episodes were desperately needed. First of all, Episodes 1-6 were all pure Kdrama adrenaline rushes; the highest form of “crack” that keeps the viewer watching from the edge of their seat, yelling at the TV, gasping at the fast pace and quick turns of the plot…..but seriously, 16 episodes of that intensity? Not humanly possible, and like RL “crack”, not good for the mental or physical health either. Instead, things slow down, and we get to see the OTP get close; it makes great narrative sense after watching Episodes 10-12. If those episodes didn’t exist, it would not be nearly as believable for YJ to propose marriage to TH–even though it’s a “business” arrangement to save her from DJ. (Heh…yeah. Sure it is.) TH however, seals the deal with a scorching kiss! Yesssss! We’ve all seen shows where the man wants the “Marriage of Convenience”. Here, it’s the wealthy and powerful heiress who steps up and takes the reins. She has the power and the desire to make TH into a knight in shining armor and use him to save herself from her evil brother. TH is the complete opposite. He’s head over heels in love with her; and can barely talk about it with his gangster buddy Man Shik without getting giddy like a love-struck teenager. And now that YJ knows her former beau was a lower-than-a-snake’s-belly kinda guy who was in cahoots with that criminally insane brother of hers, it certainly paves the way for her and TH to get together. No need for TH being “jealous of a dead guy”. (Great line, BTW) Episodes 7-9 are like a bridge between laying out TH’s story, and mixing it into the Revenge Drama that YJ is about to start in Episodes 10-18.
I really hope the 2 episode extension doesn’t derail this awesome show. If you haven’t started this show yet, get on board quickly and cross your fingers that there will not be a crash landing in the final episodes!
Quick note–my apologies for the radio silence. Another massive appliance failure (washing machine) has upended my life along with the lack of air conditioning during a brutal heat wave, and my daughter’s dog being hit by a car–don’t worry, she and the dog are just fine. The dog must have a guardian angel. Final thoughts on “Last” will be upcoming, and a possible update on the piano class situation. I also plan to get to the movie theater to see “Veteran” with Yoo Ah In later this week or over the weekend. It’s playing at a couple of theaters closer to my home, so I don’t have to drive to DTLA. I need a break! Send me a message if you are in the SoCal area, and we can try to arrange a meet up if you want to see “Veteran” too!