Before starting on the review, I’d like to congratulate RDTK for the slew of awards it received at the SBS Drama Awards! Han Suk Kyu is certainly very deserving of the Daesang – he was the reason why I started watching this show even when I had doubts about its melodramatic nature, and he continues to shine as the harsh yet enigmatic mentor figure.
As the show reaches its final stretch, the focus shifts from individual characters and their growth to the partnerships and teams within Doldam and how they grow together. While it’s not the first time we’ve seen the team working together, Chairman Shin’s operation is the first time that all the key characters are working together, with In Beom finally being brought into the mix by Dong Joo. The message being emphasised is that while professional and experience is important, team dynamics are ultimately what matter and even a legendary, triple-board certified surgeon like Master Kim requires people whom he trusts and is familiar with in the operating room in order to execute the surgery well.
Once Chairman Shin indicated his decision to proceed, there was no doubt that Master Kim would go through with it and I enjoyed that we got insight into the entire process of planning and preparing for the surgery, where the timing gradually got cut down closer to the required 6 hours. While Master Kim required his team members on board, he does not impose it on them and instead asks them if they are on board. This is in keeping with the style that we’ve seen, where he prefers those under him to make their own choices, rather than telling them what to do. President Do’s options to him were certainly tempting, offering him the best people in all areas. However, as he’s told Dong Joo from the start, the “best doctors” are not as valuable as “good doctors”, who have a genuine heart for saving lives.
Master Kim’s relationship with Dong Joo has progressed significantly and there’s a mutual respect between them, most evident when he did not say anything when Dong Joo took the initiative to bring In Beom into the surgery. I like that Dong Joo has earned the respect of Master Kim without losing that essence of who he is, still with that headstrong element in him and courage to question and doubt. However, Dong Joo is now willing to cast his doubts aside and challenge his own beliefs for the greater good of the patients’ lives and Doldam hospital. Dong Joo has matured a lot, growing not just in his competency as a doctor, but to someone who focuses not just on his own performance and reputation, but on saving patients’ lives. His decision to pull In Beom in showed his humility in realising that he can do a better job with someone else helping him.
As for Seo-jung, she’s always respected Master Kim and we’ve seen her journey from being meek and submissive to him, to being willing to stand up to him for her decisions when the need arises. I could relate to Seo-jung’s desire to work with someone she respects, regardless of the success rate. The results do not matter to her, because simply the experience of working with Master Kim is a privilege in itself. My experience of good bosses/mentor figures certainly proves this to be true, as it’s not about whether they can bring the team to success, but how the experience working together itself is a joy and growing experience.
I have to give props to Seo Hyun Jin for conveying her admiration of Master Kim so convincing, with child-like joy and genuine sparkle in her eyes as she explains to Dong Joo why she’s going to participate in the surgery, regardless of the odds. Master Kim’s gentle assurance of her when she makes a mistake during the surgery affirms this decision. Han Suk Kyu conveys so much with his eyes and there’s just such serenity and trust as he looks at her after she cuts the artery and tells her they have enough time. We know he doesn’t believe it’s true because he has earlier claimed that they have no chance for mistakes, but he just conveys that assurance so lovingly and in such an encouraging manner that we as viewers also believe in him.
I loved that scene where Master Kim announced all the members of his team, one by one, before starting the surgery. While it could be a formal protocol as part of the live recording, it was a significant moment of affirmation for the staff of Doldam in front of the Geodae team. It was Master Kim declaring to President Do that this team at Doldam that he has raised is the only one capable enough to carry out one of the most complex surgeries ever.
On the Geodae side of things, Hyun-jung, Chairman Shin’s daughter, provided a meaningful counterbalance to President Do’s power-driven plans. While I found her to be rather underutilised in the previous episode, her presence provided more a more convincing basis for the two choices presented by President Do. The episode revealed her anxieties and worries for her dad, which is completely understandable, and as a result of this, she simply wants the assurance that her dad is in the best hands possible either through being directly involved in the surgery or watching what’s going on. Of course, both of these options play well to President Do’s hands because he’s able to use them to his advantage. I’m wondering though who’s the random stranger who appeared midway through the surgery and how he will influence the dyanmics. Also, why there aren’t there tighter security measures in Doldam, especially after all the slate of intruders into the hospital so far?
With all the intense stuff going on about Chairman Shin’s surgery, it’s great that the show finds time for the characters (and us) to have some fun together. I’m really enjoying how the show seems to be lightening up towards the end, largely because Dong Joo and Seo-jung are such a hoot now that they have started dating. I’m finding Yeo Yoon Seok to be more fascinating and interesting now that he’s lightened up and that scene at Dr Nam’s restaurant where he said “I love you” to Seo-jung first and then to everyone else was just so cheeky and charming. Nurse Oh was also great, especially when she displayed her irritation at how President Do referred to her. I’ve always felt that the show squeezes too much medical cases into one episode without giving the characters time to “breathe” and in the final episodes, I wouldn’t mind if we really had more such scenes of the characters simply chilling out and spending time together.
In many ways, the success of RDTK has been unanticipated and many might not have expected it to become a ratings monster. While that can be attributed to several other factors (e.g. lack of competition), I have to say one of its key strengths is the ensemble of engaging and charming characters. Even the smaller characters are able to bring a smile to my face, like at the end when In-soo proudly claimed he had the ER under control, to which Nurse Eom smiles disbelievingly. While Chairman Shin’s surgery is the main storyline, I’m also keen to see Yeon Hwa’s journey of growth and budding romance with Nurse Park, after seeing her being so beaten down by In-Beom in this episode.
With only four episodes left to go, there’s still lots to look forward to and I will certainly miss my two hours in the world Doldam Hospital each week when the show is over.