I’m a big fan of international television. Which is to say, I watch a lot of shows in a lot of different languages. As a teenager this meant watching videos in clips on YouTube, but with streaming being what it is, finding programmes from other countries is easier than ever. And that makes me so happy! Thank you, Netflix. King of Streaming. So, I’m randomly compiling a list for anyone looking for non-English language shows.
**This is by no means a full list, just what I’ve written up reviews for. **
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!
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 put off watching The Man in the High Castle for ages. It’s based on the classic novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick and it stars Rufus Sewell, whom I love soooooooo much (if you haven’t seen The Pillars of the Earth or Cold Comfort Farm, hop to it!), but, being Jewish, it’s nightmare fuel to see a world where the Nazis won. (Side note: if you want a great movie with central Jewish characters, I wholeheartedly recommend Defiance.) I found out though that The Man in the High Castle isn’t just alternative history, it’s science fiction, and the focus is heavily on the Resistance and fighting against all the horrors of racism and eugenics, so I decided to give it a go. The science fiction angle just sounded interesting. It’s slow to come, but it’s there, so keep an eye out for it. (The show is slow to bring in the sci-fi like Game of Thrones was slow to bring in the fantasy. It’s very political and character based.) And, seriously, epic casting all around: Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans, Luke Kleintank, DJ Qualls, Joel de la Fuente, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and, of course, Rufus. (And more awesome actors come in as the episodes go along. Lots of great guest stars! Lots of rep!)
The show starts off in the 1960s, so it’s a costume drama-dystopian-alternative history-science fiction show. The backstory is that, during WWII, the Axis powers won their separate theatres of war, and so the United States is divided up under German and Japanese control. The Nazis control the east, which is known as the ‘Greater Nazi Reich’, while the Japanese control the west, known as the ‘Japanese Pacific States’. There is also a small sliver of land between the two known as the Neutral Zone. The Neutral Zone is basically keeping the Cold War between the Axis powers from turning hot.
The show begins in San Francisco, which looks totally different, and follows Juliana Crain and Frank Frink. They’ve been together for years, but they worry about having children as Frank has Jewish ancestry and Jews are still in danger in the Pacific States. They try and live under the radar until one day Juliana’s sister Trudy appears, frantic. She tells Juliana that she has a way out. Before Juliana finds out what she means, Trudy’s killed by the police. Juliana then finds a film Trudy had in her possession that’s meant to be delivered to the Resistance. On the film is something seemingly impossible: a world where the Nazis lost and the Allied Powers won. (It’s not quite ourworld, but it’s close.)
Frank begs Juliana to go to the police, knowing how dangerous being involved with the Resistance is, but Juliana decides to go instead to meet with the person Trudy was trying to give the tape to. When she leaves, it triggers life changing events for everyone: Frank is promptly arrested, as are his family, and their Jewish heritage is used against them; an undercover man named Joe encounters Juliana on the road and, though he has his own agenda, quickly falls in love with her. At the same time, the high officials on both sides are keeping secrets and plotting against each other. We’re introduced to Obergruppenführer John Smith, a high ranking figure in New York who is trying to bring down the Resistance and find ‘the Man in the High Castle’, who knows something.
My favourite character, bar none, is Frank. He’s deeply loyal, loving, kind, and his character progression is intense. His devotion to Juliana and Ed, his best friend, make him so endearing, but he’s also just such an innately good person. I don’t want to spoil too much of his character arc, just know he’s amazing. I like Juliana, but I definitely struggle with some of her choices. Ed is a hero. While I never liked any of the bad guy characters, the actors who play the bad guys are brilliant in their roles, and Rufus Sewell’s character has a very well written storyline. There was one storyline that I really feared would happen, but it didn’t. Huge relief! Without spoilers, if a romance had gone one way, I would’ve peaced out so fast there would be cartoon dust clouds behind me.
Heads up, though: this whole show is tough to watch. There are some truly gruesome, twisted scenes that broke my heart. There’s a storyline where they follow a character with a medical condition and you get to hear all the Nazi eugenics bullshit and it made my skin crawl. The antisemitism is appalling, disgusting, wrong and hard to watch. There’s horrific racism aimed at Blacks by both sides that will make you furious and leave you crying. The scenes with all the propaganda, insignia and symbols are also very painful to watch. But, again, it’s showing how wrong all this is. How we should be free, how everyone should be equal, so if you can handle the grim storyline to watch good characters kick ass against awful racists, it has great payoff.
What I found especially interesting is how the historical events that really happened in history are basically switched for alternative events in the story’s history. It blends the events a little, but it’s pretty much Opposite World. And as the science fiction comes in and you learn the ‘secret’ of the Man in the High Castle, the show spins you on your head while leaving on the edge of your seat.
The dystopian genre is where most of my interest lies (that, and anything with good lgbt+ rep), so allow me to recommend to you my newest gem: Snowpiercer. The series is based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige and the 2013 Korean-Czech film. I really, really liked the film, too. If anyone hasn’t seen it, make sure you do! Chris Evans is great, and Bong Joon-ho is a wonderful director. (He also directed Okja, which will turn you vegetarian so fast your head will spin, whilst you cry the entire time.) The series is definitely different from the film and stands on its own, although there are some scenes that echo each other. Where the main aim of the film is to get to the engine, where the power rests, the show delves into the politics, relationships and machinations of the characters.
The premise is basically: the world went crazy with fighting and global warming, someone tried to cool down the global and ended up causing a mass ice age that’s killed everyone and everything. The only survivors are the people and the few plants and animals they managed to bring aboard. The leads in the show are played by Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs, as Andre Layton and Melanie Cavill. Andre lives in the tail of the train, Melanie runs the engine. The train is divided by class, with the billionaires in the front of the train, then second class, third class, and then the tail, which is filled with a few hundred people who leapt onto the train just before the world froze over. Everyone at the back of the train is abused by the rich, hated and forgotten about.
At the start, there’s been a murder in the front of the train, so Melanie brings Andre out of the tail to solve the mystery, as he’s the only homicide detective aboard. Andre takes care of young Miles, an orphan aboard the tail, who he raises with Josie. Andre seizes upon the opportunity to try and help his people in the tail. He’s paired with ‘Brakeman’ (like a cop) Till, who’s from Third and is dating Jinju, a woman in Second. Till grows slowly sympathetic to Andre’s situation and the pair become friends while solving the murder. Class politics are a huge plot point, as those in First don’t like to be investigated by a man from the tail and believe themselves above the law.
My favourite characters are definitely Andre and Till, but I’m fascinated by Melanie and everything she’s not saying. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding her and she’s a much different character than the movie parallel, who was played by Tilda Swinton. Where Minister Mason (Swinton) relished pain and brutal order, Melanie is more pragmatic, although I can’t say that I like her. A lot of what she does is unforgivable. Jennifer Connelly does an amazing job in her role, though. Josie, Zarah and Knox are also really good characters. The Folger family, who seem to have most of the power in First, are horrifying. Just you wait. Y I K E S.
This is definitely a tough and frustrating show to watch, but in a good way, if that makes sense? Very diverse, great class commentary and a central l/l pairing! Can’t wait to see how season one ends. And it’s been renewed for a second season, so there’s more to come!
If you want a show with an amazing soundtrack, fantastic costumes, an intricate storyline, a diverse cast, lgbt+ rep, and superheroes, look no further than The Umbrella Academy. I finally picked it up now that season two is out and watched all of season one yesterday. I’m actually glad I waited because now I have a whole other season to dive into!
The show is based on Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s comic book and follows seven siblings with special powers. The story begins when a bunch of seemingly random women around the world give birth all at the same time – only they weren’t pregnant the day before. A billionaire goes out of his way to adopt the children and manages to collect seven. (I say collect because there’s absolutely nothing paternal or fatherly about him, at least from what I’ve seen, and he uses all of them for his own ends.) The children are trained to be superheroes, at the cost of their childhoods, and it badly impacts them.
Years later, the siblings come home when their father dies, only everything’s changed and no one gets along. One of the siblings vanished into time (Five); one of the siblings died (Ben); one was experimented upon (Luther); one was ostracised (Vanya); one is on drugs (Klaus); one is fighting for custody of her child after her marriage crumbled (Allison); and one has a lot of anger management problems (Diego). (Actually, most of them have anger management problems.) They are also reunited with Pogo, the chic, talking ape, and their Mom, who’s a robot.
In the midst of saying goodbye to their father, the sibling that went missing in time falls out of the sky, the same age he was when he vanished. And there are assassins following him. Oh, and the world is going to end in eight days. Should have led with that.
My favourite characters were Klaus, who can talk to the dead and uses drugs to avoid talking to the dead, and Vanya, a violinist who was told by their father that she would never be special, and whose siblings belittled her as a result. The two are so endlessly supportive of their siblings and have so many layers and I just felt for them at every turn. I adored Ben, Five and Diego, but I did struggle with Allison and Luther. Allison did win me over by the end, but Luther really lost the plot. Every choice he made frustrated me and I feel like everyone should have questioned him a lot more than they did.
The music was sooooo good in this show. You get Sinnerman, Istanbul (Not Constantinople), Exit Music (For a Film), Dancing in the Moonlight, and so many others. It’s seriously so good! I loved the costumes, too. ALTHOUGH WHY THIS IS SET IN 2019 AND THERE ARE NO MOBILE PHONES WAS A HUGE EYE TWITCH FOR ME. Like, if it had been explained, okay. But half the time the characters were using rotary phones and landlines, and I’m like, we are still in 2019, yes? I looked it up and it’s definitely intentional, so that’s cool, but it was a bit confusing at first. The vibe reminds me of A Series of Unfortunate Events, actually.
This is a show for anyone who loves family dramas or superheroes, but wants more diversity and character development than is often shown in movies. Definitely recommend!
I don’t know why I put off watching Titans, but I’m so glad I finally started it! I think I was overloaded with Marvel, so DC got kind of pushed aside as a result. This one makes me want to dive straight back in, though! The show picks up after Robin, real name Dick Grayson, has left Batman’s side and gone off on his own. Now working for the police, he’s put Robin behind him and doesn’t talk to Bruce anymore. But when a girl named Rachel Roth crosses his path, he’s dragged back into the superhero world.
Rachel is a teenager with a dark secret – something lives inside of her. She think she’s evil as it takes over her, turns her eyes black and she often loses control. But the darkness also warns her of approaching dangers. She’s been dreaming of Dick and his parents for a while and recognises him when they cross paths at the police station. When someone masquerading as a cop kidnaps her, Dick goes after her. At the same time, a woman, Kory, who can’t remember who she is or where she came from, is also trying to find Rachel. Kory can channel solar fire, I think. It’s impressive to watch but I’m not at the reveal yet, so I’m not 100% sure.
The villains hunting Rachel are soooooooo creepy. They’re like evil Stepford Family. They call each other Mom, Dad, Biff and Sis. And they kill with smiles on their faces whilst thanking each other. It’s seriously chilling. They’re all part of a group hunting Rachel and their indoctrination programme is disturbing as frak.
My favourite part of the series is definitely Dick Grayson, although it’s a tough choice because everyone is so well cast. I’ve never really seen Robin be the focus in anything and he’s amazing in this. There’s a scene in season one where the whole group has super powers except Dick, and it’s him who has to take down all the bad guys single-handedly and it’s seriously awesome. He puts Batman in the dust with that scene. Kory is another highlight. Anna Diop is such a magnetic actress and she’s so captivating in every scene. I also adore Conor Leslie. She’s an amazing Wonder Girl. (I also didn’t know Wonder Girl was a thing?)
The family vibes of the central group are lovely, too, and Dick acting like Rachel’s big brother is adorable. I’m curious to see where this show goes and how the characters develop. I’m not even on season two yet, but I’m stoked that it’s been renewed for a third season. ❤︎
I’ve liked Poldark since it first aired and today started a rewatch. For anyone who hasn’t jumped on the Poldark bandwagon, may I kindly suggest you give it a go? It’s worth it! Pretty dresses and suits, lovely English scenery, and a continuous, ongoing social commentary.
The series (based upon a book series published between 1945-2002!) follows Ross Poldark, an officer in the British Army who returns home after three years in the Americas. Unfortunately, the woman he’d left behind, Elizabeth, is now about to marry his cousin Francis. Francis is instantly jealous of the history between Ross and Elizabeth, but Elizabeth insists she won’t change her mind. Heartbroken, Ross returns to his childhood home only to find that it’s in tatters, there’s no money left, the mine isn’t producing copper, and his father has passed while he was at war.
When he stumbles upon a young woman trying to defend her dog from a group of men who stole him for a dog fight, Ross saves Garrick, the dog, buys her dinner and learns that her name is Demelza and she’s being badly abused by her father and brothers. He offers her a job as his kitchenmaid and takes her and Garrick home. Ross and Demelza slowly bond, aided by his cousin Verity, who is constantly at Ross’ side to support him. (Verity is seriously such a gem!) At the Poldark house is also Judd and Prudie, two workers who used to work for Ross’ father and now work for him. They’re always drunk and rude, but they add great comic relief and warm up to Demelza over time. They are also loyal to Ross, despite their bickering.
The main complication and source of drama is the lack of money for Ross and those around him. He’s unlike the other lords who look down upon the poor and instead situates himself amongst his tenants, hiring on friends and strangers even when he has no money to give, simply because it’s the kind thing to do. It wins him allies amongst those who work for him and unlike the other mine workers and mine owners, Ross and his workers have a deep sense of loyalty to each other. The so-called elites, who want Ross to act just like them, hate him for not looking down on those they believe are worth less. (Seriously, the best scenes are Ross screaming his head off about inequality and how messed up the whole system is.)
A lot of the characters change throughout the series, but Demelza, Dr Enys, Verity and Morwenna are probably my standout favourites. Ross is an amazing character, but he can sometimes be immensely frustrating (especially where it concerns Elizabeth and Demelza). Elizabeth is a very well done character, as is Francis, though I found them both immensely frustrating from time to time. There’s also Dr Enys, Ross’ dear friend, who is lovely and doesn’t believe anyone should be a doctor for the money, but to help, something the other lords are quick to scoff at. The worst character George Warleggan, who is one of the mine owners, loves belittling others and waving his money around, and makes it his mission in life to ruin Ross.
This is definitely a series for anyone who loves costume dramas, but it’s also a good starter for newbies to the genre. The social commentary is great, the action scenes are gripping and intense, and the character development is on point. And, needless to say, the romance is perfection!
I entered into Cursed not really expecting much and came away DESPERATE FOR SEASON TWO. I want to make a long, in-depth review (so I might make another, long review later), but I’m currently too full of FANGIRLING to properly string together my thoughts. In this show you will find: wonderful poc rep (it’s not just Arthur and Morgana, the whole cast is diverse and there are dozens of poc fey and warriors), lgbt+ rep (**MY HEART**), SO. MUCH. MAGIC. Like, really cool earth magic. Leaves and vines, yo! Nimue is amazing and must be protected at all costs. Merlin is the BIGGEST BADASS EVER. I love Morgana and Arthur so much. Percival is a little sweetheart. There are amazing lady friendships. There are like so many lady Vikings, too!!!! Uther was … Uther. The cinematography is beautiful. The animation, though!!!! I LOVE IT ALL.
Lads. LADS.Schitt’s Creek is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen. If you’re looking for something to take your mind off the insanity of the world, this is a great escape. I’ve had this show on my list for ages but never got around to it — until this week, and I’ve now marathoned all six seasons. It’s just so w h o l e s o m e.
The plot revolves around the Rose family after they lose their millions and are left destitute. The only thing left to their name is the town of Schitt’s Creek, which Johnny Rose (played by Eugene Levy) bought for his son David (played by Dan Levy) as a joke years before. Along with matriarch Moira (played by Catherine O’Hara) and the sister Alexis (played Annie Murphy), the family move to Schitt’s Creek and settle into the colourful life of small town shenanigans. It’s hilarious. They meet the Schitts: Roland, Jocelyn and Mutt. (Yes, his name is Mutt Schitt.) There’s also Twyla, who runs the café, Ted, the local vet, and Patrick, a local who catches the eye of one of the mains.
Over the course of the show, the characters have to find jobs (which is a first for three of them), rearrange their dreams (all of them), learn to appreciate what really matters and open their minds to new people. The character growth is seriously good season to season. The Rose family are all quite shallow and out of touch with reality at the start of the show, but as the episodes go on, they grow into wonderful people that you’re truly rooting for.
I also really love that the show is written by Eugene Levy and his son in real life Dan, and that Sarah Levy, Eugene Levy’s daughter and Dan Levy’s sister, is another cast member (she plays Twyla). A show about family, by family. And it really shows! I’ve loved Eugene Levy since I was a kid and he’s seriously so good in this. Dan is a wonderful actor as well! I’m really excited to see the other actors in more things after this, for sure! There’s also wonderful lgbt+ rep and a couple that will steal your heart. Seriously, OTP FEELS.
If you’re looking for something light, sweet, feel-good and uplifting, this is the show for you!