Show Review: 질투의 화신 / Don’t Dare to Dream / Jealousy Incarnate (2016)

Okay, so 질투의 화신 aka Don’t Dare to Dream aka Jealousy Incarnate is so not what I expected. The summary just did not give away many details. A love triangle? Cool? What else? So I didn’t go into it with much context and I’m glad I was willing to give it a try! A much better summary would be: A weather forecaster, Na-ri, works at a news network and is struggling to make it big in the business. She’s thrown for a loop when the reporter she had a crush on three years ago, Hwa-shin, returns to South Korea from Thailand. At the same time, his best (and possibly only) friend, Jung-won, begins to crush on Na-ri. So, yes, love triangle.

However, the biggest focus of the series coming in are the struggles of the characters individually: Na-ri lives with her brother in a house with a few other tenants. The young girl, Ppal-gang, is the niece of Hwa-shin, who left for Thailand after destroying his brother’s/her father’s reputation. Her mother also works at the news station, but doesn’t take care of her. When Ppal-gang’s father ends up in hospital after a drunken accident, she blames Hwa-shin and her mother entirely. Na-ri’s younger brother and another boy in the house make it their goal to look after her. Then there’s Hwa-shin himself, who, thanks to Na-ri’s accidental discovery while giving him first aid, learns he has breast cancer. It’s something I’ve not seen much, if any, representation for in English or Korean shows (or any other that I can think of?).

Hwa-shin spends a good bit of time in denial and has a negative reaction to what he considers a mark on his masculinity. It’s really heartbreaking to see. It takes a lot of women – Na-ri, the doctors and nurses at the hospital – to convince him to get treatment. In fact, the show spends a lot of time focusing on Hwa-shin’s journey after receiving his diagnosis. I’m really glad the show highlighted a topic as important as this and it’s not used merely as a dramatic and discarded plot point, it’s a big focus. You see Hwa-shin’s struggles and eventful acceptance of his cancer that leads him to getting the help he needs. He also doesn’t go through it alone. Na-ri’s mother and grandmother both had cancer, so she gets screenings every six months. It brings them into each other’s orbit and they slowly grow close.

Na-ri is also dealing with work complications, as no one takes her seriously and the sexist regulations from one of the directors is making it a wretched place to be. Hwa-shin, despite his irritation with her appearances in his life, starts to fight her corner at work, like highlighting how she’s a ratings success to the other anchors. Jung-won, a rich businessman who supplies the network with clothes, also begins to take an interest in Na-ri’s success.

The friendship between Hwa-shin and Jung-won is bromance material to the max, guys. Check out this set on Tumblr, I MEAN THE CUTENESS! And then there’s this one. I STAN A SHOW WHERE THE GUYS ARE TRUE AND UNAPOLOGETIC BESTIES.

I’m only five episodes in, but I’m really liking 질투의 화신! It covers important topics with care and comedy, and the characters are super likeable. Definitely recommend!

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!