I’ve been alternating shows, just to keep things interesting, but once I got into the mid-part of this series, I knew I’d just need to finish it.
I think the writer, Lee Soo-yun, is one to watch, and kudos to JTBC for taking a chance on new writers, because it payed off both on this one and Stranger (Forest of Secrets), both character-driven plots and realistic workplace scenarios. They also benefit from the talents of Jo Seung-woo, Lee Kyu-hyung, and Yoo Jae-myung, in particular.
I think Lee Dong-wook is okay in his performance, but he’s a little too morose much of the time (still reminds me of his Reaper performance) to really be a strong counterpart to the complex President Gu played by Jo Seung-woo. He’s the most unusual agitator ever, in that regards, but he is dealing with the usual exhaustion of long shifts as an ER doc and roommate brother to his younger brother who is paralyzed (from childhood) from the waist down. There’s a storyline about him having an imaginary non-crippled version of his brother who he ‘talks’ too that is one of the weaker parts of the story, except when it actually works. Go figure!
I’m glad to see Won Jin-ah up to her role as a pediatrician and moral compass for President Gu; I liked her well enough in her last outing in Just Between Lovers, but I’m glad they were skimpy on romance in this series (for the most part) because they had more serious things at stake than love lives to worry about. I appreciated that she was smart enough to give the new hospital president a chance, even when he’s not a medical man and exposes things that have been done wrong and could be done better. And when he disappoints her, she thinks about why he’s made his choices.
When romance was addressed, at times it felt like it was thrown out there as a way to distract from other topics, kind of a “bait and switch” technique used by one character in particular – the brother, played by Lee Kyu-hyung (who was the surprising investigation team member in Stranger). He’s a little low-key in his role, but it’s a credible characterization. And like all of the other characters, his role is there for a reason and it’s an important contribution.
I think I’ll never tire of watching Jo Seung-woo shoot someone a look of controlled irritation, or a sidelong look of concentrated thought mixed with puzzlement, or assured confidence in having the decisive winning hand (at that moment). I was often reminded of those little drawings of him done by Bae Doona 😉 What was really fun was his frustration in dealing with the new director of the hospital, the female head of neurosurgery; she was incisive and cunning in her own right, but always for the good of the hospital and patients.
The hospital setting was very well done, with modern-day financial issues taking center stage, rather than medical marvels. This isn’t an ER or Grey’s Anatomy, this is Advanced Medical Business studies. When medical sequences were included, they were realistic – at times it looked like they were filming during actual situations – so no complaints there. Of course, once the hospital chiefs and doc with a mission instigator Lee Dong-wook are involved in fighting for their survival as an institution, there is less medical stuff, but that’s okay. This writer succeeds in complex plotting in business scenarios.
To be fair, I think that there are a few moments that the feel is a little slower, and certainly less tension-filled than Stranger, but overall this is a pretty successful sophomore venture. I look forward to what next comes from this team.