I’m going to go with a profound meh. It had its moments. Some VERY GOOD moments in fact. But overall, there was too much testosterone for my liking. Too much ridiculous chest-pounding and lapel clutching, and extended breaks so Jun Ki can show off his admittedly impressive martial arts skills.
This review was written for Korean Quarterly, 1st quarter 2014 issue.
Here is some advice before viewing the fantasy period drama, Arang and the Magistrate: let the story unfold like any good ghost story told before a crackling fire on a dark and stormy night, but pay attention! There are hundreds of little plot details that are laid out in each episode. In fact, this drama unfolds like a complex mystery novel, or perhaps a better analogy would be painting a picture. You begin with an initial sketch and the composition is interesting, it tells a story, but as the layers and layers of paint are added the image becomes richer and more nuanced. As each incremental piece of the tale is revealed, you become more and more engaged in it, wanting to know why someone is a particular way and what will happen next… and then bam! You get the answers, and they shock you!
In an opening that is reminiscent of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” in which the reader is told that it’s important to believe that Jacob Marley is dead (or else you won’t believe in the miraculous tale that unfolds), the drama begins with a similar explanation. There is something odd about things these days; the barriers between the living and the dead have altered and now ghosts roam freely among the living. Oh, and ghosts have the advantage of being able to see humans but not the other way around. Except for one person, that is: a young man by the name of Eun-oh.
Continue, to read more of this review (plot-related spoilers content: low)
That’s it. That’s the post.
But I’m not sure whether I will stick it out. The first ep had so many turn-offs:
- Pipe-wielding thugs. Eye roll.
- Store bashing loan sharks. Eye roll.
- Crooked cops on the take. Eye roll.
- A coldblooded murder in front of the victim’s kid. Eye roll.
- A vow of revenge by said kid. Eye roll.
- Perpetually smirking slimy lawyer. OK, the eye roll was a little bit of an eye rawrr there because its Lee Joongi, but still…