Show Review: Where Your Eyes Linger / 너의 시선이 머무는 곳에 (2020)

It appears television writers came together and wrote a show just for me! (Just kidding, but not really.) One of my absolute favourite tropes is a bodyguard falling in love with the one they’re protecting; another of my favs is ANGST that hits you in the FEELS without ruining your whole day. And thus we are blessed with Where Your Eyes Linger.

The short series – eight episodes, ten(ish) minutes each – follows Han Tae-joo, heir and rich kid, who is guarded and protected by his best friend of fifteen years Kang-gook. They’re more than friends, though. Their relationship is deeper than just bodyguard/protectee as well. They spend every waking moment together and have only been apart for one week when Tae-joo visited Japan.

Things take a turn when Choi Hye-mi, a girl at their school, begins to take an interest in Kang-gook and Tae-joo’s jealousy surfaces. But it’s far from one sided, and as Tae-joo tries to get Kang-gook’s attention, things become more and more intense.

I watched the whole series in less than two hours and it’s totally worth it. Has anyone else seen this one? Or have some bodyguard show recs? (The K2 is perfection, FYI.)

Show Review: Romance is a Bonus Book / 로맨스는 별책부록 (2019)

Romance is a Bonus Book (로맨스는 별책부록) is a lovely surprise. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but I’m taken aback by how invested I’ve become. Seriously, I love each and every one of these characters and kind of want to ramble about them, so this review is a bit spoilery! It’s just such a likeable show with a likeable cast with a unique, heartfelt premise and relatable storyline and I must EXPLAIN. ♡_♡

The show follows Kang Dan-i and Cha Eun-ho, childhood friends that have always been supportive of each other and have remained close into adulthood. At the start, Dan-i’s getting married to Dong-min, only to run away from her own wedding and hide in Eun-ho’s car. He ends up talking her back to her wedding and she goes through with it. Years later, Dan-i’s divorced from Dong-min and homeless. She’s pretending to be Eun-ho’s housekeeper and eats and showers in his house while he’s at work, and cleaning the place in exchange for money meant for a housekeeper she supposedly hired for him.

Eun-ho quickly figures out ‘the housekeeper’ is using his place and tells Dan-i, who ‘hired’ the pretend housekeeper, to fire her. Dan-i begs him to give ‘the housekeeper’ another chance, and frantically starts looking for a new job. Her daughter’s in the Philippines at school, but her tuition and medical bills have left Dan-i with nothing. Dong-min doesn’t send child support or alimony, so she struggles to get by.

One night, after losing her shoe on the way to a job interview, losing the job interview, and having no place to sleep, Dan-i meets Ji Seo-joon. He actually found her shoes earlier that day and gives them back to her, along with an umbrella. She gives him her onion plant.

Dan-i shows up at Eun-ho’s and asks for a place to sleep. He doesn’t know she’s been divorced for a year or that her husband has left with his mistress. They’re still good friends, but drifted apart after her marriage. Eun-ho clearly hates her ex-husband, too. At first he thinks Dan-i’s making it up, but he soon learns that she’s homeless and divorced. He agrees to let her stay until she can find her own place. Dan-i then finds flyers in his house for a job interview at his book publishing company that requires no degree and she jumps on it. Having not been in the work force for eleven years, no one wants to hire her and she’s desperate for anything to pay her daughter’s hospital bill.

Dan-i ends up impressing the company without Eun-ho’s help and she’s hired as a team support contractor. Her job is basically to help out everyone, clean up, get coffee, file work, run errands. Eun-ho doubts her at first, but Dan-i ends up fitting into the company well. Although one of the colleagues, their director, hates her. When Dan-i starts showing promise in meetings and putting forward ideas, the director sabotages her efforts. I liked that Eun-ho wasn’t kept in the dark about it, but I do wish he’d done more about it. At one point his co-worker/on-again, off-again girlfriend, calls him cold-blooded for not standing up for Dan-i more. On this note, I will say that Song Hae-rin is really great. I didn’t like her at first, but she grew on me quickly.

Over the course of the episodes, Dan-i learns more and more about the book publishing industry. You see the ups and downs, and how very hard it is to get published or become successful even when you actually manage to get your manuscript picked up. The scene at the book binning plant was particularly hard to watch. Dan-i’s reaction was spot on. Like, ouch. There’s also an episode focused around a poet and how hard it is for poetry to circulate. That episode broke my heart.

Dan-i ends up running into Seo-joon in the neighbourhood and they bond over umbrellas, green onions and his dog, whom Dan-i even names. These two are the definition of adorably awkward. Like, you fall in love with Eun-ho and Dan-i in episode one, but Seo-joon is lovely. It’s a wonderful case of Team Everybody, so the episodes are enjoyable no matter who the focus is on.

The members of the company are a colourful bunch. The new hires vary wildly from Dan-i, but the trio quickly become supportive of each other. Although Dan-i faces a lot of setbacks, she gets support from Eun-ho and Hae-rin, and things slowly start to improve.

There are also great conversations about love, divorce, relationships, work, the impact of infidelity, poverty, class, etc. For anyone looking for an upbeat, charming, relatable romantic comedy show, definitely check this one out! I insist ♡

Show Reviews: Abyss (2019) & Beautiful Gong Shim (2016)

It’s been a little bit since I’ve watched a K-drama, so of course I started two in one week. Abyss (어비스) and Beautiful Gong Shim (미녀 공심이). I haven’t finished either yet, and I’m only about five episodes into each, but so far I’m loving both of them.

Abyss follows two best friends: a man who doesn’t find himself attractive and is often ridiculed, and a woman who believes herself stunning and gets quite a lot of compliments. Both die on the same day. Cha Min decides to kill himself after his fiancée dumps him over text and insults his appearance. However he changes his mind at the last second and calls his best friend, Go Se-yeon. She doesn’t take him seriously at first and halfway through the call, Cha Min is knocked off the building, only to be revived by two other worldly beings. He’s reborn as his ‘soul’s true form’: younger, taller, more confident. The beings gift him with an Abyss, a glowing orb that brought him back to life, and tell him to read the instructions. He heads towards his best friend’s flat, ready to tell her what happened, only she doesn’t come to the door and he goes to his apartment. At the same time, Go Se-yeon, is being murdered.

The next day, Cha Min learns what happened to Go Se-yeon and goes to mourn her, horrified that he could have stopped what was happening if he’d only gone inside the building. The Abyss lights up and Go Se-yeon is brought back to life in her soul’s true form: a little older and what she considers less attractive. (I will at this point note that some of the comments about beauty standards did bother me and I don’t like the body shaming a few of the characters do.)

Cha Min explains to Go Se-yeon what happened to them and proves he’s who he says is. They pair up to solve her murder and find his fiancée, who went missing just after dumping him via text. The investigation is quite interesting so far and I’m really enjoying Cha Min and Go Se-yeon’s dynamic, so I’m excited to see how it ends!

Beautiful Gong Shim, on the other hand, is a contemporary romance with a mystery twist. Gong Shim is the youngest, overlooked daughter of a family who relies financially upon her older, more successful sister Gong Mi. Gong Mi is quite shallow and puts Gong Shim down constantly, as if lowering her sister’s self-esteem is her evil art form. Honestly, she’s the worst.

Ahn Dan-tae is a pro-bono human rights lawyer and all around cheerful bloke. He encounters Gong Shim when she almost drops a potted plant on his head while trying to take a selfie on her roof. Despite this encounter, he ends up wrangling his way into renting her flat and moves in quickly. There are a lot of misunderstandings (largely on Gong Shim’s behalf), but when Gong Shim is beaten up by a rich woman at the petrol station she works out, she ends up going to Ahn Dan-tae for help.

Unfortunately, the woman who assaulted Gong Shim is the wife of the head lawyer at her sister’s law firm, and when Gong Mi learns of this, she bullies Gong Shim into dropping the law suit. Ahn Dan-tae isn’t remotely convinced and continues to help Gong Shim. He also makes fast friends with Seok Joon-soo, a rich businessman who ends up getting Gong Shim a job. Seok Joon-soo, for his part, is still reeling from the disappearance of his cousin years before, with his grandmother trying desperately to locate her missing grandson and his parents wanting to forget it happened (you get the impression they don’t care about their missing nephew).

The four lives get entwined over the episodes as Gong Mi falls for Seok Joon-soo, who likes Gong Shim, who’s liked by Ahn Dan-tae, who can’t seem to admit it to himself. CUE THE DRAMAAAA.

I definitely recommend both!

My Introduction to Korean Dramas (한국드라마)

korean drama

I don’t know why it took me so long to get into Korean dramas, but I am now deeply enamoured with the genre and have been watching them non-stop throughout the lockdown. Not only is it helping me learn Korean, but they’re just so much fun! The romance is always top notch, the acting is superb, and as a lady who needs bad-ass action scenes in everything, these shows more than provide.

I’ve written up long reviews of Crash Landing on You, Suspicious Partner and When the Camellia Blooms, but all of these deserve their own posts, honestly. And I’m going to try and write up some longer reviews for them when I can.

I’m now almost done with Oh My Venus and My Secret Terrius, which I’m loving. Both have So Ji-sub and he’s definitely one of my new favourite actors. No one enters an action scene like him! (Except maybe Ji Chang-wook, haha.) The action scenes in these shows are just so satisfying to watch.

*All of these are available on (Irish) Netflix, but I think they’re pretty widely available in most countries.*

The K2 (더 케이투) – [action, politics, romance] This one follows a framed soldier-turned-mercenary-turned-bodyguard as he protects a wealthy family with nefarious intentions. The romance and political intrigue in this was great, but the action scenes were by far the best. SUCH GOOD ACTION SCENES.

Suspicious Partner (수상한 파트너) – [romance, comedy, drama, mystery] My review. If you like adorable courtroom dramas with a touch of action, this one’s for you.

Because This is My First Life (이번 생은 처음이라) – [romance, drama] My (short) review. This show is actually one of my top favs despite the short review. It’s really, really good and the relationships are wonderful.

Doctors (닥터스) – [romance, medical drama] This one follows a troubled student who becomes a doctor and the mentor who becomes her co-worker years later. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m really enjoying the main character. She’s such a legend (and throws quite the punch)!

Descendants of the Sun (태양의 후예) – [romance, military drama, action] Two Special Forces soldiers are sent to Uruk and are joined by a group of doctors. The angst in this one is wonderful, the friendships are so great, and the awesome brotps are fierce.

My Secret Terrius (내 뒤에 테리우스) – [romance, action, comedy, drama] I am loving this one. When a young mother to twins is left widowed, her strange neighbour offers to be her babysitter as he tries to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her husband’s death. This one is just pure fluff at times and I am HERE. FOR. IT.

Oh My Venus (오 마이 비너스) – [romance, drama] After passing out on a plane from a toxic combination of diet pills and an untreated thyroid condition, a lawyer joins a trio of fitness enthusiasts who help her get healthy and fit.

Crash Landing on You (사랑의 불시착) – [romance, politics, drama] My review. My first ever Korean drama and still one of my top favs. Just start this one right now!

When the Camellia Blooms (동백꽃 필 무렵) – [romance, mystery, drama] My review. A cosy, smalltown mystery show with the cutest of characters.

Vagabond (배가본드) – [action, politics, touch o’ romance]  This one is super intense. The chase scenes are some of the best ever. The story follows Cha Dal-gun, a former stuntman as he tracks down those responsible for the death of his nephew.

Something in the Rain (밥 잘 사주는 예쁜 누나) – [romance, drama] This is a quiet, lovely show that follows the romance between a woman in her thirties and a man in his twenties, and the judgements they get from their friends and family. I started this one for Son Ye-jin, but Jung Hae-in totally stole the show.

***

If anyone has any Korean drama recommendations, definitely link me! For once I have the time to watch new television, so I may as well watch them all 😉

Show Review: Suspicious Partner (2017)

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Suspicious Partner (수상한 파트너) took me completely by surprise. It’s a courtroom drama with romance and a murder mystery to boot. (It’s on Netflix, if you’re looking!) Honestly, the premise sounded cutesy and kind of bubblegum, but give it one episode and you’ll fall in love. It has swallowed me whole. I watched the first eight episodes in one sitting and the entire show in a weekend.

The show follows Eun Bong-hee, a newbie lawyer, and Noh Ji-wook, a prosecutor known for his dislike of criminals. They meet on a train one day when Bong-hee is groped by a random man – unfortunately, she thinks Ji-wook is the one who groped her and she tells him off, much to his chagrin. They part ways, with Bong-hee going to confront her boyfriend at a hotel with another woman, and Ji-wook on his way to a business meeting. As it happens, they’re going to the same hotel.

Ji-wook is still reeling from walking in on his ex-girlfriend Cha Yoo-jung with his ex-best friend Ji Eun-hyuk. When he overhears how poorly Bong-hee’s boyfriend is treating her, he intervenes and offers her an out. Despite the fact that neither particularly like each other, they spend the night drinking and then part ways. Later the next day, however, they realise that he’s her new mentor. Things really kick off, though, when Bong-hee accidentally witnesses a murder and someone else gets killed. Suddenly, she’s accused of the crime and Ji-wook is the prosecutor on her case. And everything spirals from there.

The murder mystery of the show gets super intense (in a wonderfully well written way). I was not expecting some of those twists! The suspense gets quite stellar and keeps the pace of the show moving along briskly. It doesn’t drag along and the villain is scary, complex and well-explored. A very interesting, well done character. The comedy and the drama mesh really well and the actors have amazing range. I’m talking slapstick comedy to serious, intense, heart-breaking angst. This show has it all.

I loved the core group of lawyers and their family banter. Other than Ji-wook, Bong-hee, and Eun-hyuk, there’s Bang Eun-ho and Byun Young-hee. The group dynamic is so, so cute. And a great counter to the angst of the mystery storyline. They have a chore chart and everything. They bicker like a family and it’s so adorable. Mr Bang really stole the show, though! He was like everyone’s dad and even refers to them all as his four children at one point. Mr Bang is just PRECIOUS. I loved his relationship with Ji-wook and Eun-hyuk especially.

On that note, Eun-hyuk was a treasure. He did something in his past to Ji-wook that has never been forgiven, but he spends every moment of the show trying to prove how sorry he is and how much he wants them to be best friends again. His atonement is A+ and I really adored his characterisation. I liked Yoo-jung less as a character until the middle/end. At the start, it seemed like Eun-hyuk really fought for his atonement, while she just wanted to be forgiven without working for it. By the end, though, I realised that she was awesome, too. This show does that! Every character assumption you had gets turned around.

I thoroughly recommend this to anyone who likes slow-burn romance, murder mysteries, court-room dramas, and comedy mixed with their action and angst. This is a brilliantly done one! (●^o^●)

 

**gifs found online, not mine

Show Review: When the Camellia Blooms (2019)

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Can a person be a miracle for another?

If you’re in the mood for one of the cutest, most feel-good romances ever, allow me to direct you to When the Camellia Blooms (on Netflix!). The story follows Oh Dong-baek (played by Gong Hyo-jin) and Hwang Yong-sik (played by Kang Ha-neul) in the small town of Ongsan that has a slight problem in the form of the ‘Joker’, a killer who leaves behind messages on his victims that reads: Don’t be a joke. (Okay, so when you summarise it like that it doesn’t sound like a cutesy show, but the love story really, really is. And the mystery takes a back seat to the lurrrrrrrrve, so perhaps class it as a cosy mystery-romance show?)

Dong-baek is a single mother and moves to Ongsan to raise her son Pil-gu and run her bar, which she names Camellia. She’s not the most popular person in town, often called ‘unlucky’ by the other townsfolk, and she doesn’t have many friends apart from Hyang-mi, a mysterious waitress that she hires who also doesn’t have a support system. They get along well and the business does okay, largely kept afloat by all the men in town who like drinking and think Dong-baek is pretty.

Yong-sik is a life-long do-gooder who becomes a police officer. He gets demoted after slapping a man on television after the man proudly confesses to beating and killing his wife. Yong-sik has no patience for bad people! He’s a brash, energetic, optimistic, innately kind man and this spills into every aspect of his life. He’s basically a PRECIOUS CINNAMON ROLL and it’s SO ENDEARING. When he meets Dong-baek, he instantly falls in love and is entirely open and unapologetic about it.

Unfortunately, Dong-baek is traumatised from being left on the side of the road by her mother as a child and has severe trust issues. She’s basically a push over with no sense of self, no confidence, no ability to yell at the people who are rude to her. Watching her grow as a character throughout the show is really rewarding and, above all else, believable. It does take time, but she really does shine on her own by the end of the show. I liked how her characterisation happened. It felt natural. People don’t change over night, after all, and a person that’s been scorned and abandoned all their life isn’t just going to miraculously believe they’re loveable. So watching Yong-sik pour his heart and soul into her every episode is just lovely to watch. THEY ARE PERFECT OTP MATERIAL I SWEAR. HEART EYES.

I don’t think there’s a single character I can think of who tries as hard as Yong-sik to make Dong-baek believe he loves her and isn’t going to leave her. And he’s never bitter about it. He recognises every attempt of hers to cut herself off from happiness and is always understanding and offers her a second chance, telling her he loves her regardless. Slowly but surely, Dong-baek grows in confidence and begins standing her ground with the people in her life and eventually realises that she deserves to love and be loved. It’s such a great character arc, honestly.

The background mystery is really intriguing, with little snippets coming into every episode between the normal day-to-day lives of the characters, and ramps up the drama throughout the course of the series. You definitely won’t see the reveal coming!

There’s also the storyline that revolves around Kang Jong-ryul, Dong-baek’s famous, very rich ex. He lives a lavish lifestyle with a social media influencer wife Park Sang-mi/’Jessica’. But while they appear happy to the public, the reality is much, much different. They aren’t even friends and Jong-ryul is left taking care of his daughter by himself often. Jessica doesn’t seem to like Jong-ryul at all and they spend most of their time sniping at each other. When he learns that he has a son he’s never met or even knew existed, he begins popping up in Ongsan to try and establish a bond with Pil-gu. I actually ended up feeling really bad for Jong-ryul. He wasn’t a good boyfriend to Dong-baek by any means, but he seems like a very unhappy guy who badly wants to be a good father and just keeps messing up. There’s a lot of moments where he was just the most frustrating person ever, but I ended up rooting for him to get a happy ending, too.

Overall, if you’re looking for a romance to watch with a sprinkle of drama and mystery, definitely check out this one! You won’t regret it and the ending is very satisfying.

 

**gifs found online, not mine

Show Review: Crash Landing on You (2019)

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Crash Landing on You is a new(ish) Netflix show, and I AM IN LOVE. It’s a spin on the classic star-crossed lovers story and one I totally, totally recommend. It follows Yoon Se-ri (played by Son Ye-jin) and Ri Jeong-hyeok (played by Hyun Bin) after Se-ri, a South Korean woman, ends up in North Korea after a paragliding accident sends her over the border.

Right, so Se-ri is a successful businesswoman from Seoul, the head of an international company, multi-millionaire; and Jeong-hyeok, the man who finds her, is a captain in the army. He stumbles upon her in the woods after she crashes, and tries to bring her in to his superiors, but ends up getting stuck and she escapes. Se-ri manages to elude him for a time, only to find her way to his village where he finds her again. (The jokes they make about destiny later are so true!)

Jeong-hyeok wants to turn her in, but she threatens to report his crew for not doing their jobs properly (one was drinking, one was watching a South Korean television show while on watch, etc.) and he begrudgingly agrees to hide her until she can leave the country. Unfortunately, Se-ri’s caught fairly early on by soldiers, and he’s forced to spin a story that she’s his fiancée to save her life. Jeong-hyeok soon enlists his soldiers – Kim Ju-muk, Pyo Chi-su, Park Kwang-beom and Geum Eun-dong – to help him get Se-ri home, and they quickly grow to adore her.

There are numerous storylines going at once outside of the main romance storyline: Se-ri’s older brothers want their father’s company and hate their sister’s success; Jeong-hyeok’s brother Ri Moo-hyeok died before the series begins and the mystery of what happened slowly unfolds in the background; and Seo Dan, an heiress who’s spent most of her life studying music in Russia, was arranged to be married to Jeong-hyeok, only to return at just the wrong time. There’s also Jeong Man-bok, who has history with Moo-hyeok and knows something about his death; Cho Cheol-gang, who hates Jeong-hyeok and wants to ruin him; and Gu Seung-joon, an exile who knows Se-ri and befriends Seo Dan. (Like I said, there’s a lot of plot.) 

I love the little moments the most: the found family aspect of the soldiers and Se-ri; the flashbacks to the brothers; the bond and solidarity of the village women who befriend Se-ri; and the loyalty of Se-ri’s team manager and insurance agent, who are determined to find her and bring her home. There’s a level of kindness and love to the show that’s in the quiet moments and made me tear up frequently. It offsets the darker, grittier moments. Seriously, I cried so many times watching this show. But there are also great action moments – a car chase, lots of fighting, even more running, etc. It’s impossible not to be on the edge of your seat the entire time.

One of my favourite parts about Se-ri and Jeong-hyeok’s relationship is that they both spend the time actually trying to look out for each other. There’s no selfishness between them, no unnecessary drama or chaos. They fall in love, they know the reality of their circumstances, and they have very understandable reactions. They’re such OTP material, it’s insane. I JUST LOVE THEM. (/◕ヮ◕)/

I want to give a shout out to the fashion, too. Se-ri’s outfits are stunning, and Jeong-hyeok rocks some serious style. Without question, the fashion in the show is lush. The cinematography in general is also on point and there were so many moments where I was so wowed by the views. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

I totally recommend this show to everyone! It’s utterly romantic, but not over the top or cheesy, and the characters are given such great backstories and plots. I’m a few episodes from the end and I can’t wait to see how it all wraps up!