The Veil (2021)

Profile
Drama: The Veil (검은 태양)
Network: MBC
Episodes: 12
Release Date: September 17 – October 23, 2021
Runtime: Friday & Saturday 22:00

Plot
A NIS agent goes back to find out what happened one year ago to him and his colleagues.

Main Cast
Namgoong Min – Han Ji Hyuk
Kim Ji Eun – Yoo Je Yi
Park Ha Sun – Seo Soo Yeon
Jang Young Nam – Do Jin Sook
Kim Jong Tae – Kang Pil Ho
Kim Do Hyun – Ha Dong Kyun
Lee Kyung Young – Lee In Hwan
Kim Min Sang – Jung Yong Tae
Kim Byeong Ki – Bang Young Chan
Yu Oh Seong – Baek Mo Sa

Review
The drama’s plot felt so familiar. Like a mishmash of western spy action movies like Bourne identity, Die hard, Jack Reacher etc but still so uniquely Kdrama.

I waited for this the whole year and was not disappointed! Very thrilling, with action and lots of guessing of whodunit, but you almost need to watch closely because it can get confusing with so many characters.

Hands down Namgoong Min carried the show coz he was just amazing in this role as Han Ji Hyuk. I think he didn’t need to bulk up that much since there were very few shirtless scenes but he looked so good in suits and his face is fuller. 😍

I love the partnership between Han Ji Hyuk and Yoo Je Yi. At first I thought Jeyi was too bland and green for Jihyuk but she proved to be very smart and complemented well with Jihyuk.

Very early on they introduced “Baek Mosa” so I thought he must be the main villain, but then the next 6 episodes went around in circles trying to implicate the other baddies in the NIS. I guess with the amount of villainous actors they casted, they wanted to complicate things and make people guess who is the worst of them. But I like that they finally teamed up to defeat the main baddie.

I loved the slow reveal of what really happened that night in Shenyang. There were so many twists and turns to get to that point when Jihyuk finally remembers everything. The reveal who killed his colleagues was something i expected since they kept hinting at it. The face off between Jihyuk and Mosa was typical Kdramatic with the daughter pleading to his father.

Son Su Yeon was odd. She always felt out of place and they killed her off so early!! Her ugly fake looking hair didn’t help either.

Rating: 8.5/10

Awaken (2021)

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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)

Hot Stove League (2020)

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Drama: Hot Stove League (스토브리그)
Network: SBS
Episodes: 16
Release Date: December 13, 2019 – February 14, 2020
Runtime: Friday & Saturday 22:00

Plot
A fledging baseball team hires a team manager who is not afraid to shake things up to make some changes. Will he be able to convince the team to succeed or will the team end up being disbanded?

Main Cast
Namgoong Min – Baek Seung Soo
Park Eun Bin – Lee Se Young
Oh Jung Se – Kwon Kyung Min
Jo Byeong Gyu – Han Jae Hee
Lee Joon Hyuk – Go Se Hyeok
Hong Ki Joon – Jang Jin Woo
Jo Han Sun – Lim Dong Gyu
Ha Do Kwon – Kang Doo Ki

Review
I think almost everything that Namgoong Min touches turns to gold. And I’m so happy he finally won a Daesang for his fantastic performance as Baek Seung Soo. Actually, the entire cast was amazing!!

I started watching on a Sunday, kept hitting “next episode” until i realized i was almost done with the show!

How much I loved this drama? Let me count the ways. First, as I said above, amazing performance not just of Namgoong Min but from everyone – the management, the head office, and the players. Each episode focused one 1 to 2 persons’ stories and how Baek was able to help and resolve the problem.

I only have basic knowledge of baseball so didn’t really understand the stats, but it didn’t really matter because the whole point is more on how a manager was able to successful transform a low performing team to a champion. It’s not just how he worked, but how he influenced the people around him to become better versions of themselves.

You can pick up some tips on how to manage difficult people and how to deal with difficult negotiations, Baek Seung Soo is so good at it, i wonder why he is not a hot commodity. I guess they are uneasy with his unorthodox thinking.

I especially loved the episodes about Gil Chang Ju. You can really feel that he loved his wife so much that he had to do what he can for her, and he felt terrible for letting down the people. I would have advised him to do the same thing – play for one season and go to the army like everyone else and come back better and stronger.

I also loved the story about Baek’s brother and cried for Seung Soo. The burden Seung Soo was have felt – feeling guilty for his brother injury, feeling devastated for his wife’s miscarriage, and taking care of his parents. He never shared his pain with others and he stopped smiling. I really hoped that he would finally find a team that would actually want him and stay, but I guess he really is a drifter, off to go where no man wants to go and just kicking ass.

I also loved Lim Dong gyu’s redemption. Episodes 1-2 made him look like such a jerk but underneath it all, he also had his dreams. I think he learned his lesson when Seung Soo kicked him out of the team. But it also felt right when he came back because he is always a Dreams player.

The only episode I didn’t like was episode 15, i thought it was too much, like they had one more episode to fill but they dont know what else to do so they just made the WTF decision to trade Kang Duki and make the manager look like a tool. I also didn’t like Kwong Min, even though he was getting hit and humiliated by his cousin and his uncle, I didn’t feel sorry for him. And him suddenly changing his mind and agreeing to sell the team wasn’t too convincing.

Episode 16 was too simple for a finale. I wish we saw more efforts from Seungsoo to look for a buyer all throughout the show. The ending was easily resolved with just 1 company agreeing to buy the team after just 2 meetings. To think Director spent years looking for a buyer to no avail.

One thing I wanted to say, If the plan was to disband the team from the very start, it didn’t really make sense to bring a new GM and approve of all his changes. It then feels like all his (and everyone’s) efforts will just be a waste of time and the best players will all end up team-less (which is awful!). I wish the objective was very clear from episode 1 – if he can’t fix the team before the season then they will disband. Baek did so many changes that there’s actually a big chance to win the next season, and yet the company still went ahead and killed the team. Other than that, everything else was terrific. I wished there an epilogue or a special episode where we actually see them play during the season. I would have wanted to cheer for them even if it’s just imaginary. LOL.

Rating: 9/10

Doctor Prisoner (2019)

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Profile
Drama: Doctor Prisoner (닥터 프리즈너)
Network: KBS2
Episodes: 32
Release Date: March 20 – May 15, 2019
Runtime: Weds. & Thurs. 22:00

Plot
Dr. Na Yi Je gets wrongful imprisoned for faking medical diagnosis for Congressman Jung. Because of this, he got kicked out of Taekang Hospital and his mother died because she wasn’t able to have her surgery. Dr. Na vows to take revenge. To do that, he finds a way to become the medical director of the Wester Seoul Penitentiary. Will he be able to succeed or will he end up losing his own life?

Main Cast
Namgoong Min – Na Yi Je
Kim Byung Chul – Seon Min Sik
Choi Won Young – Lee Jae Joon
Kwon Nara – Han So Geum

Review

This show reminds me a lot of Innocent Defendant because the main guy was wrongly jailed for a crime he didn’t commit and the villain is a psycho. And just like Innocent Defendance, this show is one intense rollercoaster ride!

I love Dr. Na, when he was this young, caring doctor who was always smiling and laughing. I hate that he became a bitter vengeful guy who was willing to do wrong things to avenge for himself, his mother and all the other people who got hurt in the process. Namgoong Min is the perfect actor for this role, because he can portray the anti-hero quite well. His eyes are so expressive and his voice is creepy when he talks mean. I love that he is so smart and is very prepared to carry out his revenge. He seems to be able to think of the possible actions that the bad guys will take, and even when things don’t go his way, he is quick enough to get out of the sticky situation.

The first half focused on his cat-mouse game with Director Seon, who was also cunning and double faced. I thought they matched well and I was so hooked at everytime Director Seon gets away, Doctor Na fixes it, then Doctor Na kicks his ass and Director Seon works his out. Never thought that they will eventually team up to take down the bigger bad guy, Lee Jae Jun. While the ending was a nice one, where Director Seon got his dream job and Doctor Na is going to vie for the hospital director, I thought that Director Seon also did a lot of bad things that he should pay for but didn’t just because he became one of the good guys in the end.

Lee Jae Jun is one amazing villain. Scary too. It seems like he knows everything, has eyes everywhere, can manipulate anyone and any situation. To the point of being too unrealistic sometimes, though I can say the same thing for Dr. Na, who seems to always be at the right place at the right time. Sometimes I feel bad for him, his father got married, his mother killed himself, his stepfamily doesn’t care about him and is even trying to take away his inheritance. But no amount of childhood trauma can justify his psychotic mind – killing his own father, ordering people to kill other people, etc. I wish they just killed him off, but I loved that ending where he’s alive but still scheming, like you wish he can get out and have a season 2.

As for the stepfamily, the mother, Lee Jae Hwan and Lee Jae In, I didn’t really feel any empathy for them since I also think it was wrong for them to fight with Lee Jae Jun. Psycho aside, I thought he deserved to take over the hospital, not the stepfamily. The only reason I was rooting for them to win was because Doctor Na needs them to take down Lee Jae Jun. Also, I can’t understand why people are fighting over lee Jae Hwan and Lee Jae Jun when the most competent person around is actually Lee Jae Jin. Is it because she’s a woman that’s why she is not even getting the credit she deserves?

Another woman who deserved more recognition was Han So Geum. She was useful in gathering the information and she helped Doctor Na a lot. Too bad her character got less and less role in the latter half of the show once her brother was found.

This show was not afraid to kill characters and get all batshit crazy with the illnesses and kidnapping and killing etc. and that’s what makes this show fun!

Prosecutor Jung and Ms. Oh was the only reason this show wasn’t too dark. I loved how cute they are as a couple and they really brought the light heartedness.

Overall, this was a really great drama, although in terms of rewatch value, I don’t think my heart can take watching this again. (I will just watch Namgoong Min in his other dramas)

Rating: 8.5/10

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