Awaken (2021)

Profile:
Drama: Awaken (낮과 밤)
Network: tvN
Episodes: 16
Release Date: November 30, 2020 – January 19, 2021
Runtime: Monday & Tuesday 21:00

Plot:
A detective, rookie cop and ex FBI agent try to solve a series of murders, which maybe connected to the White Night Village tragedy 28 years ago.

Main Cast:
Namgoong Min – Do Jung Woo
Lee Chung Ah – Jamie Leighton
Seolhyun – Gong Hye Won
Yoon Sun Woo – Moon Jae Woong
Yoon Kyung Ho – Lee Ji Wook

Review:
Anything Namgoong Min, I will watch! I love him so much! And why are my favorite ahjussis bad guys?? I’m not used to them being bad. Anyways, this is a scifi drama so you need to adjust your viewing lens to enjoy this.

I thought the premise was interesting. Kids being experimented on a remote island. One night, people just started killing themselves. Only 7 (if i remember correctly) survived, plus 3 unknown kids. Several years later, the kids are grown up. The experiments are still ongoing and Do Jung Woo, the top test subject is a detective hell bent on taking down the White Night foundation and stop the experiments.

I think for the most part, this drama was able to tell its story, link the plots from episode 1 to episode 16 quite well, even the ending wrapped up each of the characters’ stories neatly. What they didn’t do well is to setup the full background and history of the what, who, how and why. So if you need to know everything to believe the story, then you’ll probably hate this. But if you take the story for what it is and let go some of the logic (remember, this is science fiction so imagination is required), then this is good enough.

I like Do Jung Woo – although I mostly don’t understand him – I know he’s super intelligent, but he also seems to have speed and strength and he doesn’t seem to die! At a very young age, he was able to come up with a formula to gain immortal life. Something his mother and Hye Won’s dad has been trying to solve for years. I like the twist on the pink lollipop – I’ve been wondering for 16 episodes what it was for and I liked the reveal on what it was supposed to be! I loved the piece about being a “monster” — the final act was a nice surprise as we finally understand what it means! I preferred a different ending for Jung Woo, I didn’t mind if he didn’t survive the explosion, but I guess knowing that he’s alive is good enough. I was shipping him with Hye Won — but I know it’s futile to think of any future between them.

Just to go back to the research and Jung Woo’s mom, the mom was too creepy!!! I have a lot of questions — simple ones like I was confused at first if they were real kids or test tube babies but looks like the mother really gave birth to them — but who’s the father?? The mom was too obsessed with her research I dont know when and how she would have gotten pregnant twice. Same with Gong Il Do. I even thought that maybe Hyun Hee and Il Do had the kids or maybe it was Son Min Ho but I’m glad they didn’t go the makjang route. I was shocked that the mom never aged and we later learn the reason for it, but why did it take them years to track the 3 kids??? That i couldn’t understand. how could they not know that Jung Woo is 113? He is quite visible and if the kids can recognize him, why not the foundation, Minho, Il Do or Hyun Hee? I also liked how they resolved Hyun Hee’s story — that living forever in pain and suffering is better punishment than a quick death.

Gong Hye Won – i liked her a lot, but I found it funny that she already resigned from the police force yet she was able to run around with her gun and arrest people. She’s also amazing at kicking the bad guy’s butt – it actually made me wonder if his father ever tried to inject some serums on her. I also liked that she was smart and was able to figure things out even outside the police or Jung Woo.

As for Jamie Leighton, I was intrigued by her at the start, but I never warmed up to her character, mostly because of how she treated Jung Woo – like she was so sure he was the killer etc. When the reveal showed that not only were they brother-sister, they were actually twins, I still didn’t warm up to her, and it’s because I thought she didn’t do enough to help Jung Woo. She mostly did her own investigation with Ji Wook and the third child (which I appreciated because it ran parallel to Jung Woo’s investigation on the secret lab and foundation). Even in the end, I didn’t even feel that she mourned her brother’s death. She just went back to US as if nothing earth shattering happened. I also didn’t really see her disassociate identity disorder (will call this MPD) (was it whenever she tried to stop a truck?

The actor playing Lee Ji Wook will forever be Teddy Jeong to me (from Team Bulldog). He was annoying at the start, but I also end up liking him. I still dont know how he was able to quickly figure things out, like immediately thinking that Jamie has MPD without any facts/evidence supporting his theory. I thought it was to setup the plot that Moon Jae Woong has MPD. He was also there when Jung Woo was trying to get info from Son Minho (that first time when Jungwoo was tagged as the suspect) – he filmed the whole thing yet he didn’t hear Jung Woo talk about the White Night Foundation or the name of the president. I thought that was odd that he wasn’t curious to start researching about the foundation. but i love this links to Hye Won because his investigation also helped a lot.

Moon Jae Woong – middle of the story I already knew he wasn’t the main baddie. I thought his main reason for hating the twins because they left him all alone that night was dumb. Just like what Jung Woo said, “Didn’t I tell you to wait for me?” Can you imagine if he waited, he wouldn’t have been struggling all this time and harboring a useful grudge?? And having MPD as side effect of the drug also wasn’t explained. And how did he know and remember how to use lucid dreams to do the forewarned murders just like how Jung Woo did all those years ago? I also wasn’t sure if his computer skill was due to his special ability or he was just naturally good at it? Poor Yong Shik though, thought he didn’t deserve to die like that but at least he was finally free of the third child.

Son Min Ho – although very critical to the story as the face of the White Night Foundation, I couldn’t understand why he was never held accountable for the tragedy. We also dont really have enough information on his motives, other than greed and wanting to be the chairman of the new foundation. i think he was a side villain that didn’t really matter and thought it was fitting to die as a test subject.

The main baddie — it was so obvious from the start that he was the President that Jung Woo’s reveal about him fell flat to me. What i wanted to know was the why and how. The flashbacks saw him already old, so I couldn’t understand how the drug was able to reverse his aging. I thought it was so the person will never age (like what happened to Hyun Hee) but here, he just became young, which didn’t make sense. And how can no one not recognize him as the previous president? He didn’t do any plastic surgery, so there must still be some pictures from his previous times. And how did he become chief secretary with zero background /past? and beyond wanting to have an immortal life, who were the two old people attached to the tubes? I’m guessing one is his previous wife, but who is the other one? And what’s the point of keeping them alive? So many questions, not a lot answered, but i guess that wasn’t the main point of the story. We just needed to know he is the guy funding everything. Seeing him die in his old self was satisfying.

The unsung hero of this drama, for me, is Old Man. I loved him. He seems to know everything! He’s a sniper, he can get all the info that Jung Woo needs, he even got the ambulance/get away car for Jung Woo. I’m hoping that they are still together, keeping Jung Woo company and almost like his father figure.

Rating: 8.5/10 (8 for the story, but adding +0.5 because of Namgoong Min)

The Spies Who Loved Me (2020)

Profile
Drama: The Spies Who Loved Me (나를 사랑한 스파이)
Network: MBC
Episodes: 16
Release Date: October 21 – December 17, 2020
Runtime: Wednesday & Thursday 21:30 (35 minutes each / 2 episodes per day)

Plot
Kang Ahreum met Jeon Jihun in Jeju and quickly felt in love and got married within 6 months. They also got divorced a year later and vowed to never see each other again. Turns out, Jihun was an Interpol agent and although he loves his wife, he decided to leave Ahreum to protect her from getting even more hurt. Years later, Jihun and Ahreum meet again as Jihun was chasing Sophie, who turns out to be Ahreum’s friend. Sophie was murdered and Jihun and Ahreum work together to solve her murder. Unfortunately, it seems like Ahreum’s current husband, Derek is one of the suspects and unknown to Ahreum is actually a double agent. Can Ahreum and Derek’s marriage survive once she finds out the truth about her husband? Does Jihun still have a chance to win back Ahreum and solve the case?

Main Cast
Eric Mun – Jeon Ji Hun
Yoo In Na – Kang Ahreum
Im Joo Hwan – Derek Hyun

Review:
I loved this underrated KDrama! This felt like an actual spy drama and had similar vibes with My Secret Terrius. But this one is different because beyond the spy and action, there were a lot of discussions on love and marriage. Actually it is like a relationship drama under the guise of a spy drama.

I loved the 3 main leads. Jihun, Ahreum and Derek had so much chemistry together as a team and separately as couples. The stark contrast of the marriage between Jihun and Ahreum vs Derek and Ahreum were both so beautiful, i actually got confused who she will end up with. I was team Jihun but i wondered how they will get back together without Derek in the way. I liked how they resolved this.

The bromance between Jihun and Derek was also great. They both loved the same woman although they had different ways to show their love. Hated Derek’s character at first but came to also like and pity him in the end. I hope he is having a good life in Malta like he wanted.

Although Jihun loved Ahreum he never crossed the line and waited until the time was right. They were too young when they got married but now they grew up, got to know each other more and found out thy actually worked well together. They looked like the korean Mr and Mrs Smith in the last episode. Really loved the acting of Eric in this drama.

Ahreum is one of the best female leads in 2020. She was smart and tough, yet feminine and compassionate. She fought Tinker and slashed his leg with a pair of scissors, she made a sweet deal with Kim Dong Ran and helped take down Helmes boss. I actually thought she would get out of the wedding dress business to be a full time agent in Jimin’s team but being informant is way better!

I loved the whole team – Chief Ban Jimin (who was super hilarious and harsh), the cute couple Yonggu and Seora, even the sad story of Tae Ryong 😦

The only thing I didn’t like about this drama is how they handled the bad guys. Poor Peter never got justice for his death. No one probably knew he was dead and no one ever found out Doobong killed him. Although Derek did clean his body and put him in a nice box, Derek also used his body to fake his death and no one figured out it was actually Peter. So really felt bad for him.

Likewise I thought Shin Hera got off quite easily, with just some crying (the mother-son relationship was so odd) and I can’t believer Derek let Tinker go. He is probably still out there, spying and maybe killing people.

Overall, I loved this drama, the final episode was satisfying. Can’t believe they were able to squeeze in one spy case in the final episode! I wish we had 1 more episode of Jihun and Ahreum together (or maybe see them walking down the aisle the second time around!)

Rating: 9/10

The Tale of Nokdu (2019)

Profile
Drama: The Tale of Nokdu (조선로코 녹두전)
Network: KBS2
Episodes: 32
Release Date: September 30 – November 25, 2019
Runtime: Mon & Tue 22:00

Plot
Nokdu disguises as a woman and hides in a widow’s village, trying to find who and why they are trying to kill his family. Inside the village, he meets a Dong Ju, who is a gisaeng-in-training, but hides a secret of her own.

Main Cast
Jang Dong Yoon – Jeon Nokdu
Kim So Hyun – Dong Dong Ju
Kang Tae Oh – Cha Yul Moo
Jung Jun Ho – King Gwanghae

Review:
I heard so many good things about this show and maybe that’s why i had high expectations, but i didnt like it as much as i thought i would.

The first half was funny but then it got boring because there was not a lot of action happening and the leads just keep talking in every scene. I fast forwarded some scenes 🤫 unfortunately. I also didn’t feel a lot of chemistry between the two actors. I also didn’t find Nokdu handsome or manly, maybe because he was supposed to act like a lady so they found an actor who has a smaller frame and looked more feminine. He looked tiny in those scenes where he is standing across from Yulmoo, who looked so handsome and imposing with his sturdy built. Unfortunately, Yul Moo is a crazy psycho prince so I’m all for Nokdu!

I liked the sword fight scenes especially when the Muwol Corps are fighting. I also loved the supporting characters like the Queen, Yunjo and Heo who tried their best to persuade the King to not kill the child, and the old master who was always by Nokdu’s side (i was scared that he will die in the last scene). I didn’t like the little girl, though, i thought she was annoying and not cute.

The second half of the story was a little better, starting from when Yulmo revealed his identity and the plans for revolt starting happening. I was more interested in the political part rather than the widow village and romantic scenes.

The King was awful and Prince Neungyang too but we know he will end up with the throne. So half of the time I’m asking, why waste 16 episodes just to find out the bad guy wins? What was this show supposed to tell the viewers? Then I realized the title is called The Tale of Nokdu so it’s not about the throne but about Nokdu’s growth. and I loved the happy-ever-after! 🥰 They are just so happy to live in their tiny island away from all the political strife. And the Queen gets to live with the couple too!! I didn’t even care what happens to the King or the Prince! They can take the throne and fight one another or die!

Rating: 7.5/10