Look Back: I’m thankful for writers who surprise me – Thank You

This older drama is perfect for those who are missing their weekly dose of Shin Sung-rok! I watched this drama shortly after its original run and again recently and loved it all over again. I hope you will too.


Recently I had the good fortune to watch a drama that managed to be both touching and surprising. I’d chosen the series for two reasons – the lead actors I knew to be very talented and the writer had done excellent work in the past – but not without some trepidation. After all, it was no secret that the story featured a young girl who been infected with HIV as the result of a blood transfusion, so the concern was there that it would dissolve into a “disease of the week” teary melodrama. The series sat in a stack with others, waiting for that moment when I felt that I could face whatever the story offered. After all, sometimes you just feel like a good cry.

But the author, Lee Kyung Hee (이경희), had other plans. “Thank You” (고맙습니다), starring Jang Hyuk (장혁) as the troubled Dr. Min Gi Seo, Gong Hyo Jin (공효진) as the courageous and loving unwed mother Lee Young Shin, and the charming Seo Shin Ae (서신애) as her daughter Bom, charmed, delighted, and yes, made me cry, but never in a manipulative way. It was memorable as much for what it did not include as what it did. For example, the brash doctor is the son of the predictable chaebol head (his mother) but we are spared the cliché of a mother opposing a son’s interest in an unsuitable woman. (Unless, of course, we consider the reaction of Bom’s grandmother as her son learns that he is the father of an 8-year-old daughter and wants to make amends.) Instead we are treated to a series of small moments in which life in an island village unfolds, and how a grieving man comes to honor the promise to his dying lover and finds family, a meaningful life, and love.

The performances are outstanding in this drama. Gong Hyo Jin, with many memorable performances to her credit, including roles in “Ruler of Your Own World” and “Hello My Teacher“, inhabits the role of the prettiest girl in the village who succumbs to the charming boy she loves and pays the price, but ends up fiercely in love with her daughter and willing to make any sacrifice. You can’t take your eyes from her. Jang Hyuk, in his first series after his army duty, shows a maturity and sophistication in his acting, and as well an emotional connection. As his character Gi Seo comes to find his place in the community and a home you see this peacefulness wash over him, especially when Gi Seo picks up Bom, to protect her, to calm her, or to play.

The supporting characters also contribute to the strength of the story, particularly Shin Goo (신구) as Mr. Lee, Young Shin’s senile grandfather and Shin Sung Rok (신성록) as Choi Suk Hyun, Bom’s father. However, to fully describe what this drama does so well would be to spoil it for you. It is highly recommended.

This drama can be seen on Viki.com

#choi-kang-hee, #gong-hyo-jin, #jang-hyuk, #lee-kyung-hee, #lee-young-shin, #seo-shin-ae, #shin-goo, #shin-sung-rok, #thank-you

Queen of Mystery 2 – Series Impressions

While I was waiting for new episodes of other shows and trying to keep my Park Seo-joon addiction in check, I went back to my bookmarked shows to see what I’d overlooked and realized that I hadn’t checked out Season 2 of Queen of Mystery. I dove in, to see if they had done a good job sustaining the charms of Season 1 and I’m happy to report that, for the most part, they have, though there are some tonal shifts.

No spoilers of note…

What’s the same: Choi Kang-hee and Kwon Sang-woo still have the same playful banter, though now that she is divorced they are allowed to dance around whether or not they are ‘dating’ or interested in each other (because: no adultery allowed). She’s still insightful, he’s still surprised by her abilities but more willing to listen. Her friend, the Dosirak store owner is still her supportive bestie, and the aloof profiler is also a regular, though it seems he is doing his best to stay aloof.

What’s new: The emphasis shifts more to working inside a police station and Choi Kang-hee keeps trying to pass the entrance exam, but they’ve had her best pal take the test (and pass) and join in investigations. They have moved to a new station so the cast of colleagues and patrolmen have changed as a result, with mixed success. They’ve introduced a quirky forensic expert (who I found borderline annoying) and a former academy rival for Kwon Sang-woo (who I found easy on the eyes).

The story itself continues with the investigation into her parent’s mysterious deaths and his dead or missing long-ago girlfriend but they toss in a number of unrelated and slightly hit-or-miss extra cases in the early episodes. Some of those leave a couple of loose threads that I thought made things a little sloppy, but if they are going to have a Season 3 (as is hinted at, once again, at the end), maybe they have left those for plot points in the future.

Overall, I think that they have a decent formula and a likable couple and core cast in this series, so it’s a sufficiently pleasant way to pass the time. Would I watch a Season 3? Yes, I think so, which is enough of an endorsement these days!

#choi-kang-hee, #kwon-sang-woo, #mystery-queen-2, #queen-of-mystery-2

Might be another season of Mystery Queen

I just saw the news that they’ve decided on another season and are in negotiation with Kwon Sang-woo and Choi Kang-hee to participate (and it would be silly without them), so a tentative “Yay!”

#choi-kang-hee, #kwon-sang-woo, #mystery-queen, #queen-of-mystery

Queen of Mystery – Final impressions

I’ll do my best to be non-spoilery, of course!

If you are a fan of the “cozy” genre of mystery novels (where an amateur sleuth gets involved in solving crimes), then I think you’ll enjoy this drama quite a bit. I think too that it helps that Choi Kang-hee and Kwon Sang-woo are doing some good work and are playing appealing characters, and are surrounded by good supporting characters. Add to that mixture the fact that while the crimes involved aren’t always as fully fleshed out as one might like, the storytelling in general keeps things percolating.

It turns out that the producers envisioned this as the kind of story that can have multiple seasons and, while that may seem like a spoiler, I mention it so that you’re not caught out as I was at the end of episode 16. The combination of short crime/detect/solve plots plus the longer bigger (older) mystery that weaves throughout the entire series kept my attention – small rewards and pending gratification – but the decision to do things that way can backfire if they never make a season 2. If that is the case, I’ll have to mentally write my own!

Choi Kang-hee has become more and more versatile in her characterizations over the past 3 or 4 dramas, and her basic good-heartedness and dogged pursuit of the truth (even when Korean drama writers will persist in having characters demonstrate a complete lack of awareness of dangers – can it be because of the relatively low crime rate in most areas?) might not seem to be up to her previous roles in terms of complexity. As the housewife who adores her husband and in-laws seems less of a challenge, you can see her as being more of a stereotype, but they’ve given her an emotionally complex backstory. I particularly came to love the relationship between her Seul-ok (aka Sherlock) and the MIL.

Kwon Sang-woo is actually more appealing as a gruff and impatient cop than as the slick suited type, at least IMO, so I found more to enjoy in in Wan-seung (aka Watson, which is funny when thinking of how this puts him in a more intellectually subservient role if it’s a literal interpretation) than in his recent roles. He gets to be the muscles with his own intuitions and intelligence and I liked the growing relationship (platonic, for now) with Seul-ok in the drama.

It didn’t get super high ratings so season 2 may not pan out, but you know, I am keeping my fingers crossed that they decide to take a chance on it. I would happily sit thru more of the unfolding story and the growth of their partnership.


#ahn-kil-kang, #choi-kang-hee, #kwon-sang-woo

Queen of Mystery – First Impressions

No spoilers…

I know, I know! I should be watching Shopping King Louis, but something keeps holding me back! Instead I watched the latest episodes of Radiant Office (7-8), which I’m enjoying quite a bit and I’m happy to report that Ha Suk-jin is not the same kind of arrogant jerk he was in 1% of Something and Let’s Drink, and Perfect Wife (11-12), which I’m enjoying very much for the fresh plot, and the first 2 episodes of Queen of Mystery with Choi Kang-hee and Kwon Sang-woo… because I was curious.

I enjoy the idea of the ‘ahjumma’ mystery lover helping the gruff detective (against his will) solve crimes – but they don’t sugarcoat the idea that amateurs can get into trouble and I have a clue where they’ll go with the plot already. Predictability isn’t always a bad thing though IF you like the characters and look forward to seeing it unfold. So far I’m reserving judgment; she looks adorable but she’s done 2 things that are really foolish and dangerous – borderline TSTL. He’s fine, and it’s interesting to see how he’s trashed his suave leading man image to play the rock headed detective who seems to have no susceptibility to pain.

I’m cautiously optimistic – this is the 2nd of two on-air offerings penned by writers who won competitions and maybe it will offer the same kind of fresh story as the other.

#choi-kang-hee, #kwon-sang-woo, #queen-of-mystery