Analysing k-drama has helped me realise how much work goes into these shows and appreciate them so much more. Having written over 200 blog entries, I would like to share my approach on how to analyse k-dramas so as to enjoy them so much more. I have a degree and Masters in English and will be applying literary and film analysis techniques in the webinar.
I will be launching a webinar very soon titled “Unlocking the Keys to K-drama” soon. The webinar will cover my Genre, Characterisation, Technical Details approachusing dramas like Healer, Queen In-hyun’s Man, Legend of the Blue Sea, Goblin, Suspicious Partner, Hotel Del Luna and The World of the Married. If you are interested to sign up, please indicate your interest by clicking this link and you will be placed on a mailing list to be notified once the webinar is up. Spaces will be limited since it is my first run. Thank you!
Legend of The Blue Sea delivers a light-hearted, fun and sweet finale that’s nothing less of what we’ve come to expect of the show.
The show has always done its fun and light-hearted parts well and most of my favourite parts of the show have been its laugh out loud bits. Whether it’s Sim Chung’s awkwardness in adjusting to the world through watching TV dramas, or Joon Jae’s denial of his affection for her, the show has consistently been able to make me smile and laugh. The finale has many of these funny moments too, like Nam Doo in his new profession as he speaks about tax evasion and quotes Benjamin Franklin, Detective Hong becoming part of the trio and drinking beer with them and Sim Chung’s meeting with the mermaid who has come on land.
On the romance end of things, it was never in doubt that Joon Jae and Sim Chung would have a happy ending, even as the show tried to throw in that final obstacle about her having to return to sea to recuperate. I did have a strong suspicion from the start that Joon Jae did not forget Sim Chung, even though she erased his memories, and I was right! It was touching to see that he recorded every single moment of them being together, though the question was why he had to do so in writing? We know from the early part of the series that photographic evidence of her will always remain, so why didn’t he take any photos with her? Wouldn’t there have been any photos from her birthday too?
Logical issues aside, I appreciated that Joon Jae had to work hard to ensure the memories of Sim Chung were retained, and that the memories didn’t just come flooding back through a random trigger. I also liked how he respected her enough to keep a strong front when she spoke to him through telepathy in front of his friends and family, so as not to expose her identity in front of them. It certainly must not have been easy given that we saw him breaking down already in the car journey back, but his instinct to protect her always comes first, and even after seeing her for the first time in three years, his first priority is to protect her identity. And even after they reunite, they settle down in a home close to the sea, a place where she can be comfortable in, and away from the rest of society, so that she does not have to fear being exposed and they can both live their lives happily ever after while he supports her as a public prosecutor.
Nonetheless, even as the show ends with perfect happiness for our couple, there’s an undeniable feeling that the show could have been so much more. I strongly believe I’m not alone in saying that the mythology of the mermaid was only superficially explored during this series. It was only when Jo Jung-Suk made his cameo that we started to go slightly deeper into the mythology, but we never really got to explore the world that Sim Chung came from. We got hints of it towards the end, but it was never really enough. Furthermore, we never got to explore what it means for a human to fall in love with a mermaid, given that they are both essentially from different worlds. Joon Jae just accepted the fact that Sim Chung was a mermaid without questioning further or even discussing it once. This romance across worlds almost seemed too easy.
Beyond the mythology, the whole connection between past and present wasn’t also fully exploited for its dramatic potential. Granted, we did get some interesting twists towards the end with Nam Doo and Chi Hyun, but part of me also felt like this big reveal came too late and by that point, I had already been so frustrated with Dae Young’s lack of action. There were hints that Dam Ryung and Joon Jae could communicate with each other and help each other when Dam Ryung was also getting visions of the future, but that really wasn’t pushed much further. What I found most problematic was that there really was never any threat to Sim Chung in the modern day storyline, unlike in the Joseon era. Nobody really wanted to get rid of her, except for Dae Young who was largely ineffective. Given that Sim Chung never really was in any danger, it also didn’t feel like their relationship had to go through huge hurdles to get to where it was.
In spite of the above, I still think the show was a worthwhile watch because it was mostly entertaining. Jung Ji Hyun has always been good, but I didn’t think this was her best performance – I felt she performed much better in My Love from the Star, also partly because her character was so much more layered and complex, demanding a larger range of emotions from her than Sim Chung and Sae Wa. However, it’s Lee Min Ho who truly shone in this series and I have to say his performance was really amazing, especially towards the end following his dad’s death. I initially complained that the rest of the characters weren’t interesting, but by the end, I grew to love almost all the characters, which made the show an enjoyable watch. Well, not every show needs to be a classic and I’m glad that this show was one which just allowed me to sit back and relax after a long day.
LOBS puts in its best episode yet with an episode full of twists and turns and a resolution to Nam Doo’s story arc that’s satisfying and also tongue-in-cheek.
The episode begins with Chi Hyun’s discovery of his dad’s death, which we did not get to see last week. We learn that he enters the room just as his dad is making the call to Joon Jae and moments before his death. He sees the drink next to his dad’s bed and realises that his dad was poisoned by his mum. He then disposes of the drink, replaces it with a cup of water before calling the police to report his dad’s death.
We then return to the moment where Joon Jae sees his dad being wheeled out, and he looks up and sees Chi Hyun. He immediately responds in anger, blaming him and his mum for what happened to his dad. This is the start of many great performances by Min Ho throughout the episode as his anguish, sorrow, anger, loss, determination all come through so clearly as he lashes out at Chi Hyun. It’s touching to see how the brotherly bond between Detective Hong and Joon Jae have developed as Detective Hong arrives on the scene and becomes an assuring presence to Joon Jae, telling him to tend to his dad while he looks into the crime scene.
We then to a scene at the pool with both Sim Chung and Nam Doo, which is one of my favourite scenes. Nam Doo tries to ask Sim Chung about how she knew that Ma Dae Young’s memories had disappeared and tells her that he’s one who has turned his back on his friends before. Sim Chung looks at him, with a completely lack of fear in her eyes and tells him plainly that if he turns his back on her, she’ll decide what to do with him. Although not spoken, she might know that Nam Doo has recovered his memories, which also means he knows she is capable of removing them again. I love how Sim Chung rises up in this episode and is no longer the vulnerable one needing protection from Joon Jae. Tae Ho breaks in then to inform them of Joon Jae’s dad.
Nam Doo, Tae Ho and Sim Chung arrive at the mortuary to see Joon Jae all broken down and overwhelmed with sorrow. Nam Doo asks Tae Ho to go to the side with him, recognising that it’s Sim Chung whom Joon Jae needs now. It’s a small act, but looking back, I see this as an affirmation of the concern and care between Nam Doo and Joon Jae. Sim Chung goes up to Joon Jae to comfort him and he asks her to remove all the memories between him and his dad because both the good and bad memories hurt so much. This was the moment that really hit me because you could really sense how heart-broken poor Joon Jae was. I’ve had issues with how the show set up and build up Joon Jae’s relationship with his previous family and with dad’s characterisation, but the fallout of his death has been really well done.
Sim Chung tells him that she can’t remove those memories, because the memories are still being held on to by Joon Jae as they are memories of loved ones. It isn’t exactly clear what rules govern the removal of memories thus far, because Sae Wa was previously able to remove memories of herself from Dam Ryung. I do wish this was explored more clearly. Nonetheless, what I really liked about this episode was how Sim Chung’s strengths really came to the forefront, both her physical strength and her ability to remove memories. Loved the reversal of roles in the car later between Joon Jae and Sim Chung as she tells him that she’ll make him happy and protect him.
Soo Hee and Chi Hyun arrive on the scene and Soo Hee gets top marks for her acting abilities, collapsing with grief upon discovering her husband’s death. While she’s lying down resting, Chi Hyun approaches Nam Doo, having found out about him while doing background checks on Joon Jae. He threatens Nam Doo, saying that he can expose his misdeeds any time, and asks Nam Doo to assist him to get rid of Joon Jae. Nam Doo agrees, saying that he’s one who’s willing to put aside his friends when there’s gain for him.
We then move to an encounter between Sim Chung, Joon Jae’s mum and Soo Hee in the washroom, where Sim Chung grabs onto Soo Hee to stop her from slapping Mo Ran and then gets a glimpse of her memories of preparing her poison. She uses this information to help Detective Hong discover a hidden room at the basement at Soo Hee’s house, which then becomes critical information used to bring Soo Hee into prison. Given that this is detention without evidence, she can only be kept for 48 hours and Soo Hee holds out by giving evasive and vague responses.
In the meantime, Chi Hyun has put together a plan with Nam Doo to kidnap Joon Jae and then feign his suicide. Immediately once Soo Hee is released, they get in on the act and bring Joon Jae to a warehouse, where Soo Hee reveals all the crimes that she has done to Joon Jae, thinking that his death is near. Little does she know that it’s all been a ploy with Nam Doo already alerting Detective Hong earlier of the entire plan. Soo Hee’s confession is recorded and she’s finally apprehended. Upon realising his mum has been arrested, Chi Hyun explodes in anger and takes a gun from a police officer to shoot Joon Jae. Sim Chung fulfils what she promised her, and jumps in front of Joon Jae to protect him.
What a fun ride to see Joon Jae and Nam Doo’s skills of deception and disguise to be used for the purpose of justice. Nam Doo’s remarks to Detective Hong and Joon Jae about why everyone thinks he’s the one who would turn on his friends seems to be a cheeky comment at viewers too. Now that I think back, we’ve never really been told during the Joseon era that Nam Doo was the one who killed Dam Ryung’s friend – all we saw was him next to Chi Hyun. However, given the previous scene between Nam Doo and Sim Chung, the assumption that almost everyone jumped too was that Nam Doo would turn on Joon Jae. I would have been alright with the storyline of Nam Doo turning on Joon Jae, which was already a twist in its own right. However, it’s even more satisfying to see Nam Doo pretend to turn on Joon Jae, but then ultimately be on the side of good, helping Joon Jae to capture his mum. In the large scheme of things, it’s also reassuring because it seems like history will not repeat itself – though to be fair, we still aren’t very clear of what exactly what role Nam Doo’s historical parallel had to play in the grand scheme of things.
In fact, the notion of history not repeating itself is also reinforced through Sim Chung’s role in this episode, where she proves herself to be more of a threat and very capable of protecting Joon Jae. I do wish we had seen more of this earlier, because we already had seen her strength in episode 2, but that was conveniently dropped along the way until now. It was great to see her also put her memory-removing capabilities to good use, to tap into Soo Hee’s memories, but to resist from removing them, because that would be letting her off too lightly.
Now, the person who’s notably absent from it all is Dae Young, who we know has lost all his memories, but still remembers the mermaid. It’s pretty obvious that Sim Chung won’t die, so what’s keeping me interested now is how the show will close the loop between past and present on both Joon Jae and Dae Young’s storyline and what exactly Chi Hyun’s role is in the Joseon era, such that he decides to kill Sae Wa and Sim Chung. We also know ajusshi is going to wake up soon, so he’ll definitely have a critical role to play in the last two episodes. Besides Joon Jae and Sim Chung, we also now have Tae Oh and Shi Ah to add to the overall sweetness of the show, and they have certainly grown on me and it would be nice to see them get together!
It is this kind of deft storytelling that I was hoping the show would move into much earlier. There is so much scope for storytelling, not just in the Joseon era, but also in terms of delving into the mythology of the mermaid and Sim Chung’s past. Instead, a lot of the second half was focused on drawing out Joon Jae and Sim Chung’s relationship and milking it for all it was worth. Nonetheless, late is better than never and it’s good to see the show moving at a swifter pace now.
Things really start moving in this episode of Legend of the Blue Sea and our “villains” take very concrete steps ahead, resulting in a tense episode with lots of twists and surprises. It’s a move in the right direction as the upping of intensity was long overdue.
In order to defend herself, Sim Chung decides not just to erase Ma Dae Young’s memories of his evil deeds, but to completely erase all memories, leaving him with no identity at all. Ironically, I enjoyed the scenes with Dae Young more in this episode than in all previous episodes. The sense of loss and disorientation that Dae Young experiences really displayed what we heard in the first episode about the mermaid taking away your soul. It is even more detrimental than taking away your life, because by removing all his memories, she’s essentially left him as an empty shell of a person. Sung Dong Il does a fantastic job in this episode in particular conveying that sense of loss.
As for Seo Hee, the reappearance of Mo-ran, the realisation that Joon Jae’s dad is no longer taking the pills and the handicapping of Dae Young forces her to take things into her own hands. She continues to be the one character who instils fear and all the scenes of her spotting things were amiss with Joon Jae’s dad were so chilling. She decides to poison Joon Jae’s dad, which eventually leads to his death.
Separately, Nam Doo’s schemes become even more evident. I had suspected already that he was eavesdropping on Joon Jae and Sim Chung’s conversation by the pool last episode. Turns out it’s true and he has figured out that Sim Chung is a mermaid and is planning to sell her off for profit. Joon Jae’s decision to leave Sim Chung alone with Nam Doo is so ominous.
The question now is how Chi Hyun fits into all this, especially since we know from the previous episode that Nam Doo and him were working together in the Joseon era. What happened after he entered the house and met Dae Young? Was he there in his dad’s final moments, witnessing his death? Would his dad’s death prompt him to take action against his mum? There seems to be strong hints too that ajusshi will have a big role to play in preventing the tragic fate from repeating. The fact that he is also having flashbacks indicates that he has unfinished business and all the talk about how him waking up is a miracle suggests that this miracle will actually take place. In a strange way, Dae Young’s character is now also left hanging – we were initially led to believe that he has unfinished business too, so how will that be carried out since all of his memories were taken away? Is he even going to have any role to play in the supposed death of Joon Jae and Sim Chung?
As for Sim Chung and Joon Jae, they talk about what she saw through Dae Young’s memories, that Dam Ryung and Sae Wa do not have that happy ending that Joon Jae told her about. However, both of them acknowledge that knowing the sad ending changes nothing – they do not regret coming together and falling in love once again. What is beautiful about their romance though is that both of them had to make active choices in this life to ensure that the romance happened – history repeating itself wasn’t simply about them passively sitting back and just falling in love.
Even though Sim Chung did fall in love for Joon Jae immediately, she did have to swim all the way to Korea to find him, learn a new language and culture, and support Joon Jae through his family issues. For Joon Jae, he had to make the decision to turn away from his life as a conman, in order to become a better person for Sim Chung. There were moments where Sim Chung could have left or run away, but Joon Jae was there to hold her, find her and protect her. They were more than just chess pieces being moved around by the hands of fate, but active agents in creating their own love story in the present day.
The fact that they’ve been actively creating their love story also gives me hope that they’ll exercise that same power to bring it towards a happy ending. After all, the first step towards having a happy ending is being able to envision it and Joon Jae has already done so by rewriting the story of Sae Wa and Dam Ryung. In fact, when he shared that ending with Sim Chung, he could possibly have been looking to the future rather than the past, believing that it was him and Sim Chung who would live a long happy life, have babies and grow old together. He reasserts this vision of the future again when talking to Shi-ah, telling her that both him and Sim Chung will be together for a very long time.
I cannot end this review without mentioning Lee Min Ho. Even though I’ve never quite connected with the family storyline or felt much for his dad, I have to give props to Min Ho for portraying the pain, regret and sorrow so movingly and convincingly in the final scene. With Nam Doo eyeing Sim Chung, he definitely has more pain and struggle coming his way, but such adversity will be his and Sim Chung’s opportunity to prove that they will rewrite the past and create that happy future for themselves.
Lots of important things happen in this episode, but the most surprising revelation of all is that Nam Doo and Chi Hyun’s historical parallels in the Joseon era were the ones who killed Dam Ryung’s friend, and by relation, Dam Ryung. This revelation comes as we realise that ajusshi is also experiencing flashbacks while in his comatose state. Why is he also experiencing flashbacks? Does he also have unfinished business?
While it’s a nice twist, I also wished we also got more information about Nam Doo and Chi Hyun’s historical parallels since we are so close to the end already. It was a disappointment that we only saw their faces, but never got to understand more of who they were and their motivations back in the Joseon era. It also makes me wonder why we spent so much time with Lord Yang and Dae Young when they ultimately weren’t the real threat.
This twist does work to a certain extent because I had already suspected that Nam Doo may have a role to play in the possible downfall of Joon Jae and Sim Chung because of how the swimming pool scene played out. Chi Hyun’s turn towards evil came more as a surprise and even in this episode, it’s not so clear where exactly Chi Hyun’s allegiances will eventually lie. Given his realisation now that his dad is Dae Young, would all his hatred still be directed towards Joon Jae? And is that hatred strong enough to prompt him to kill Joon Jae? At this point, I’m still not feeling the sense of threat and danger to both Joon Jae and Sim Chung’s life – shouldn’t the show be building this up more?
Putting aside my general issues with the show’s weak villains, especially Dae Young, I liked the developments we got in this episode.
Joon Jae’s reunion with his mum was well-played. It was nice seeing Joon Jae being the one to comfort his mum and assure her that he had grown up well, which reflected how he had indeed grown up from the young kid who was always cried and needed his mum’s comfort. That cross-cutting of their reunion on the zebra crossing with shots of young Joon Jae and his mum when she was younger was very apt indeed. Besides being sweet and heartwarming, I appreciated that the mother-son was used to bring to surface once again the issue of Joon Jae being a conman, and more importantly to put the pieces together regarding Soo Hee’s past identity.
While I have issues with Dae Young, I have thus far found Soo Hee to be an alright villain, in that she does take action and instils fear. I liked that we got her backstory in this episode which she tells Chi Hyun when he confronts her about Dae Young. Scenes of her past are also portrayed to us when Sim Chung tries to erase Dae Young’s memories. She came from a difficult family background, with fate dealing her a bad hand in life and her being adopted by an abusive father. She learnt how to use her status as someone who was powerless to climb her way up the ladder, because everyone trusted the words of the powerless. Having finally gained stature and wealth, she simply wants Chi Hyun to let things fall in place and face the world without shame. I’m actually looking forward to the showdown between her and Moo-ran (Joon Jae’s mum) because this is one of the better developed conflicts/relationships in the show.
Compared to earlier episodes, we did not get as much time with Joon Jae and Sim Chung in this episode, but what we got was, as always, sweet and fun. Knowing now that Joon Jae can hear her thoughts, she starts to talk to him telepathically, thanking him and asking for kisses. What was even better was seeing Sim Chung take action to help defend Joon Jae, by asking Chi Hyun out so that Joon Jae, Nam Doo and Tae-oh could break into the household. This leads to her also eventually confronting Dae Young and erasing his memories, which makes her realise that Joon Jae lied to her about what happens to Dam Ryung and Sae Wa. Now that Sim Chung is also on the same page about what happened in the past, I’m hoping we can move on from Joon Jae being Sim Chung’s protector, to them also being equals and working together to prevent the same fate from happening.
On a related note, while we know that Joon Jae has never had issues with Sim Chung being a mermaid, it would also be nice for both of them to actually have a conversation about it at some point. Wouldn’t Joon Jae have questions about her mermaid identity and what that means for their future together? The show seems to take it as a non-issue that both of them are from different worlds or different beings.
As a whole, this was a decent episode with the plot moving ahead steadily. With only four episodes left, I’m hoping the show quickly establishes its modern day villains and allows them to do something truly threatening.
[Note: The version I watched was only 97% subbed, which meant that majority of the conversation between Joon Jae and his dad was not subbed. I may add further thoughts once I get to view that conversation.]
After the intensity of ep14, this episode returns to the show’s more usual light-hearted tone with more sweetness and fun between Joon Jae and Sim Chung while still moving several pieces ahead, the most significant development of all being Joon Jae finally meeting his mum.
I’ve always felt that the wiser choice for Joon Jae would just be to come clean to Sim Chung about what the dream is all about and how it’d end, so that the both of them can work together to avoid a repeat of the ending. I’m wondering if Sim Chung is completely ignorant about what happened, because we did see her in episode 1 swimming at the bottom of the ocean and picking up the jade bangle. Instead, Joon Jae decides to tell her the story between Dam Ryung and Sae Wa, but changing it to a happy ending instead. Perhaps it’s also his way of changing the past, by not acknowledging it. It could also be part of his general protectiveness towards Sim Chung, which also bothers me slightly because we know that Sim Chung, unlike Sae Wa, is perfectly able to protect herself, particularly against physical threats.
While I did not particularly like Joon Jae hiding the sad ending from Sim Chung, what I enjoyed was how Sim Chung responded to the realisation that Joon Jae has known all along about her mermaid identity. One of her fears has always been that he’d reject her and send her back once he knew she was different. Her realisation that he accepts her and values her makes her feel completely at home in this world. This is reinforced later by his assurance to her that he will ensure she can do normal things, just like anybody else in this world. It feels so much like a new lease of life that Sim Chung decides to throw a birthday party for herself, inviting Yoona and her homeless friend along. She also decides to invite Joon Jae’s mum, who initially declines, but agrees once she realises that Sim Chung has no parents and that this is her first birthday party.
The bond between Sim Chung and Joon Jae’s mum felt a little forced initially, but I like how it has developed into something such a simple, heartwarming friendship. When Joon Jae’s mum meets Sim Chung, she too tells Sim Chung that she’s planning on a new start, to look for the person she wants to find and say what she wants. I do wonder though why she’s just been targeting So Hee and not looking for her husband, because wouldn’t she be even more disappointed with him given that he allowed his own son to run away and didn’t inform her. Nonetheless, I liked how she put Soo Hee in her place when she came to Jin Joo’s household and let the whole truth out of the bag.
Jin Joo’s reaction when finding out the truth is so hilarious and perfectly in character! She responds with so much excitement because her home has now become the site of where history unfolds and asks Joon Jae’s mum to stay on in the place, even if she doesn’t want to work for her anymore. Shi Ah is also informed of this new revelation, which then makes her sink even deeper into desperation because she realises Joon Jae is connected to the Chairman of a huge company.
On the dad side of things, Soo Hee has become even bolder and has now even enlisted Dae Young to become the chauffeur of the family. Chi Hyun sinks even deeper into the dark side and pulls ajusshi’s oxygen tubes, because he realises that ajusshi knows about his mum’s connections to Dae Young. Chi Hyun seems to have a moment of regret and awakening when we see him fumble to put back the oxygen tubes, but is taken away by Dae Young who tells him not to destroy the plan and just sit back while things fall in place. Well, who would blame Chi Hyun for wanting to take action? Whatever Dae Young’s plan is, he’s certainly taking ages to act on it. He hasn’t even acted on his plan all the way in the first few episodes to kill Joon Jae. Dae Young’s specialisation seems to be lurking around in cars, but not taking any action. Our present day villains just aren’t very competent, though I am keen to find out who Dam Ryung’s friend saw in the room, wearing the jade bangle. I hope the show doesn’t hold out for too long in revealing the truth to us and that the answer will be a satisfying one.
The episode ends with Joon Jae and his mum finally meeting, at both sides of the road and walking towards each other, both in tears. While we’ve taken longer than I’ve preferred for this reunion to happen, the way it has been set up has ultimately been satisfying, with Sim Chung being the one to make the reunion happen and communicating it to him telepathically from across the road, that the legend of the tower was right, that those who parted there would meet again. With one legend coming to pass, what remains to be seen is how the legend involving our mermaid will unfold. While that story had a tragic ending in the Joseon era, the overarching message of that legend is that whatever happens, the boy who loved the mermaid will always fulfil his promise to find the mermaid and protect her. I truly hope that the sense of danger to our mermaid becomes clearer in the coming episodes, because what their romance needs now is a rising-up against the odds storyline to elevate it to something truly legendary.
The series finally gets into serious business with its story-telling and lots of important things happen in this episode.
First of all, it’s the big reveal that the one who kills Dam Ryung and Sae Wa is not Lord Yang/ Ma Dae Young. Even though we still do not know who it is, there seems to be strong hints, especially through the ominous background music, that it’s Chi Hyun. It is a nice twist, though it does feel like the show hasn’t really played fair by hiding that aspect of the Joseon storyline from us, because we have not seen Chi Hyun’s historical parallel at all. And if the person who kills Dam Ryung is not Lord Yang, then why is he getting the historical flashbacks? The show still has some questions to answer for this twist to be fully convincing nonetheless, I’m glad for this development because it means we’re likely to go back to the Joseon storyline again.
Related to this is Joon Jae’s response to the revelation he receives about Dam Ryung and Sae Wa’s fate. Min Ho does an excellent job of capturing the pain he feels from his past life from not being able to protect Sae Wa. In spite of the doctor’s warning to return her to where she came from, Joon Jae refuses to do so and resolves to protect her through whatever way he can. He gets Tae-Oh to tighten security in his house and to follow Sim Chung wherever she goes. He also quickens his work with Detective Hong in investigating Dae Young’s whereabouts and finally makes significant headway when he discovers Dae Young has been coming to the same doctor as him. I was pleasantly surprised to see the plot move so quickly, because Joon Jae also learns from his doctor that Dae Young mentioned he wasn’t the one who committed the murder.
I was glad to see that the purpose of the reincarnation was also being questioned, as Joon Jae and his doctor talk about what the unfinished business involves – is it the unfinished business between Dam Ryung and Sae Wa, or that between Dam Ryung and Lord Yang? It certainly must be elements of both; if so, what exactly is the unfinished business of Lord Yang/Dae Young, given that he succeeded in killing both Dam Ryung and Sae Wa? Given that there are hints regarding greed, perhaps he never really intended to kill her but wanted to capture her and profit from her? The complexity of the show is finally being built up – a story about Dam Ryung and Sae Wa finally finding love through reincarnation would be sweet but rather one-dimensional, but a story about Dam Ryung and Lord Yang completing their unfinished business makes it more fascinating.
A lot happens with Sim Chung as well in this episode as she goes on a date with Joon Jae, spends time with his mum, gets discovered by Nam Doo and removes his memories twice, and finally finds out that Joon Jae is able to hear her thoughts. I’m glad we’ve moved beyond Sim Chung continually wondering whether Joon Jae likes her, towards more fascinating developments and her actually using her power of removing people’s memories once again.
I liked the scene where Nam Doo discovered her mermaid identity because the exchange between the two of them was so tense. There was a real sense of fear in Sim Chung when she heard Nam Doo’s plans for her, and his request for her to cry to produce pearls was rather chilling. I’m thinking Nam Doo certainly has a historical parallel in Joseon and I’m reminded of that scene we had previously with Lord Yang eating oranges, which was paralleled in the present with Nam Doo also eating oranges. In fact, the scenes of him looking on her as she was swimming in the pool reminded me of the scenes of Lord Yang looking upon the mermaid while she was tied up in the pond. I’d be keen to see the show take this further – perhaps the one who kills Dam Ryung and Sae Wa is not Chi Hyun’s historical parallel, but Nam Doo’s? That would be interesting as well.
It’s certainly to this episode’s credit that I’ve started generating even more theories and speculations about what happened back in Joseon. I’m really hoping the show keeps up this pace in the episodes to come!
I’m liking the dynamic between Detective Hong and Joon Jae; they play off each other well and make a great team. It was neat to have a historical parallel for Detective Hong as well.
Joon Jae’s mum finally gets more to do and she takes bold steps to confront Soo Hee and is now on the look out for Joon Jae. I’m wondering though how she fits into the whole storyline between Dae Young, Joon Jae and Sim Chung.
Right from the start, we knew the Joseon storyline would not end well, which became even more apparent when we learnt that Dam Ryung would die at the early age of 27. However, even all the foreshadowing could not prepare me for what happened and I actually gasped in shock when Sae Wa grabbed the spear and pierced it through herself too. It was such a visceral, cruel and painful death. Yet death would be more bearable than living, because at in death, they would be able to meet in Heaven and have the hope of meeting in the next life.
The connection between Joon Jae and young Dam Ryung becomes even more poetically drawn out in this episode, as we see young Dam Ryung telling Sae Wa that if they were born again, he would find her, meet her and protect her – and he would remember the conversation they had.
Right from the start when Joon Jae and Sim Chung met in Spain, even when he didn’t know she was the mermaid, Joon Jae’s protective instincts were already evident as he kept going back to find her and never let go of her. When they met again in Seoul, he took her in and kept her close, even though he had never met her before. He’s always been there to protect her, even before falling in love with her. In this episode, he keeps holding her so close to him with such intimacy and watchfulness, because he wants to give her security and comfort. I’ve been wondering for a while why he has not told Sim Chung that he can hear her thoughts and that he knows she’s a mermaid. However, I see that as his protectiveness for her too as he does not want her to become too self-aware and being respectful of her desire to keep it a secret from him.
Joon Jae takes proactive steps in working with Detective Hong to uncover Dae Young’s identity. He is more determined and driven than them to solve this case, because it’s not just another criminal case, but it affects him deeply and threatens to take away the only person who he really feels love for at this point in his life. His most heroic act is delving deeper into the dream, which the professor warns him may cause him trauma. However, he realises he cannot be passive and just wait for the dreams any more. Through telepathy he hears that Dae Young already knows Sim Chung is a mermaid and he assures her, telling her not to be afraid. As he holds Sim Chung in his arms, he tells her that he will protect her and not allow events to repeat themselves. He decides to take control of his and Sim Chung’s destiny in the midst of ever-increasing danger from both Dae Young and Seo Hee.
Seo-hee amps up her evil quotient in this episode by changing the will and allowing her husband to fall down a flight of stairs. Following that, she calls Dae Young to hasten his taking down of Joon Jae, so that her, Chi Hyun and him can be happy once again. She also learns that Sim Chung is a mermaid, and given how merciless she is, I wonder what she will do with that piece of information. We have seen how ruthless and heartless is with her husband and we know she’ll stop at nothing to get rid of Joon Jae.
While the connection between the past and present for Sim Chung, Joon Jae and Dae Young and Seo Hee is tightening, I also like the fact that Joon Jae’s story goes beyond his love story with Sim Chung and saving her, because that on its own would be a rather one-dimensional story.
Joon Jae has his own story arc and that is one of his turning away from a life of crime and falsehood. It’s touched on briefly in this episode with the exchange between him and Nam Doo and Nam Doo’s evident disappointment that Joon Jae is turning away from being his accomplice so as to fulfil his promises to Sim Chung. Prior to meeting Sim Chung, it was Nam Doo who gave him a sense of purpose in his life. Joon Jae was pretty much an outsider of society with no family and interacting with the world mostly through multiple fake identities. Sim Chung’s appearance in his life has given him a strong reason to turn away from his life of crime to live a righteous life, possibly as a civil servant. His partnering with the police now can be seen as a parallel to Dam Ryung rooting out crime and corruption. As much as he’s Sim Chung’s saviour, Sim Chung is also there to save him from falling deeper into deceit and corruption.
In spite of all the serious stuff going on, there’s also lots of fun stuff happening, especially with Sim Chung. Both Lee Min Ho and Jun Ji-hyun do comedy extremely well and I really enjoyed the scenes of Sim Chung getting jealous of Sae Wa and repeatedly questioning Joon Jae about it. Sim Chung even starts applying what she learnt from the Internet, which I’m pretty sure was lost in translation, but it was still very funny to see her telling Joon Jae he should learn how to use the phrase “dog-gone”. It was also great seeing the strength return to Sim Chung and her using her strength to do random acts of kindness and shift furniture around Joon Jae’s house.
The episode finds the perfect balance between light-hearted fun and epic, moving storytelling and here’s hoping the rest of the series can get that balance right.
The first fifteen minutes of this week’s episode felt like exactly the kind of thing the show should be doing at this point of time. It was dark, intense and creepy and we got the mythical world and the modern world combining to provide a real sense of threat. The setting of an abandoned hospital was indeed spooky and I loved seeing Sim Chung also fight back and threaten Dae Young with the warning that if he touched her, she would take away all of his memories. On that note, how long has it been since we’ve seen the feisty, strong Sim Chung that we saw in episodes 1 and 2? How is it that she’s been reduced in the recent episodes to being so vulnerable that she continually needs saving by Joon Jae?
I’m getting rather impatient with this show and may stop writing reviews until something significant actually happens. Yes, the episode was entertaining and it was adorable seeing Joon Jae respond to Sim Chung’s thoughts, but haven’t we been through this before? Didn’t Joon Jae kiss her in episode 9 after pouring out his heart to her? Even after he went to the sauna to bring her back and then save her from Dae Young, shouldn’t that already provide enough certainty to her that he loves her?
Also, I was under the impression that Sim Chung already knew that Joon Jae could read her thoughts and that’s why she made such directed comments in her thoughts at the end of episode 10 that she was a mermaid. Wouldn’t she have realised from seeing Joon Jae’s facial expression after that that he knew? I thought she already knew that he knew she was a mermaid, hence his protectiveness of her from water in the sauna – or did she not notice all that? I have to admit to being very confused here.
There seems to be some narrative back-tracking here and we’re not moving ahead in the relationship between Sim Chung and Joon Jae. Since Joon Jae already knows he’s connected to the past and that she’s a mermaid, shouldn’t he start talking to her about it, finding out more about her mermaid life and whether she too knows anything about Dam Ryung? The show needs to move forward and not keep relying on the cuteness between Min Ho and Ji-hyun to pull in the viewers and ratings.
[Woman in my Life: The first fifteen minutes were captivating and tense, but I wonder why it finished with the strong and foreboding Sim Chung muttering “I’m scared” and getting all fainty again. I think the show tries to draw out a theme every week, for instance that of friendship that I mentioned previously, and this week it was about appearance and truth. Keeping up appearances for Shi-ah and Joo Jin and waiting (im)patiently is a pain, and the pent-up truth will find release. This was contrasted with Joon Jae having access to the truth by being able to read her every thought, but not quite knowing what to do to it nor confess his feelings. The episode was cute but I do think a confession needs to be forthcoming next week for I am truthfully getting impatient.]
I’m still not getting why exactly we should care so much about the Soo-hee and Joon Jae’s father storyline. I get that she’s menacing and she’s going to cheat him of his money, but how does this affect Joon Jae and also the main storyline involving Sim Chung? Joon Jae is not intending to live on his father’s inheritance anyway and furthermore, his dad is not even a part of his life anymore. And it’s been 12 episodes and we still have no encounter between Joon Jae and his mum.
I’ll still be watching the show because it is entertaining, but I may stop writing for it for a while, until something significant happens.
This episode deals with what happens after all our characters’ secrets are out and it’s a sweet reversal of expectations that it’s Sim Chung who has a harder time dealing with Joon Jae’s true identity, instead of Joon Jae dealing with her being a mermaid.
Upon realising Joon Jae is a conman, Sim Chung returns all that he has bought for her to the stores and leaves his home, checking herself into a sauna. Even when he finds her and tries to entice her back with beef short ribs, she’s adamant in turning him down even though she would love to eat the short ribs. Sim Chung may be naive and simple-minded, but she stays true to her principles and trust and truthfulness are important to her. After realising that he’s the person that Sim Chung loved previously, Joon Jae has newfound determination and moves into the sauna with her, doing all he can to protect her. Yet Sim Chung is unmoved, till a woman in the sauna tells her that Joon Jae’s presence is disturbing them. It’s only when Joon Jae joins her to bring joy to Yoona and also promises her that he’ll never tell lies to harm someone, much to Nam Doo and Tae-O’s surprise, that she’s won over by him. It was fun to see the roles being reversed and Joon Jae requiring to go into Sim Chung’s “space”, where all his pretensions are stripped away, just to win her back.
On the other hand, Joon Jae’s realisation that Sim Chung is a mermaid brings out the best in him. He realises he’s becoming that boy in the myth, who can hear the mermaid’s voice because he loves her. Unlike Joon Jae’s life as a conman where he entered people’s consciousness for his own gain, this time, he uses what he hears of her thoughts to become a better man by caring for her, fulfilling her wishes and ultimately becoming a person who can keep his word to her. Learning about her mermaid identity and how sensitive she is to water makes him even more protective of her and he goes all out to protect her in the sauna. Most significant is his decision to turn away from being a conman, warning a group of girls about how they’d end up being like him and ultimately promising Sim Chung that he’ll not tell lies to harm others. He puts on his “conman” attire in this episode not with the aim of deceiving others, but to bring joy to Yoona by supporting her in her concert. When he gets arrested, he turns himself in without struggling, displaying a true desire to turn away from his criminal ways. Lee Min Ho puts in a good performance here and I really enjoyed the scene of him realising that he’s the person Sim Chung spoke about.
There was certainly a light-hearted and magical fairy-tale feel to this episode, with wishes being made and fulfilled, Joon Jae and Sim Chung going all out to fulfil Yoona’s wish and all the references to stars and the moon. We also have our evil stepmother as we realise that Seo-hee has “blinded” two previous husbands and Joon Jae steps up to truly becoming Sim Chung’s prince charming. While protecting the mermaid in the Joseon era involved sword fights, bloodshed and racing on horses, protecting her in this episode is a more unassuming, down to earth affair of simply protecting her identity, which means keeping her away from water. This leads to many funny scenes of Joon Jae getting kids to play their water guns elsewhere, moving the water dispenser and asking the staff for long pants. It’s really heroism in its plainest, most unadorned form.
The other plotlines surrounding the fairy-tale don’t fare too badly as well. Shi-ah, who I’ve always felt was bland, is getting slightly more development and I found her scene with Tae-oh very funny as she offers him her friendship, even though she can’t love him back. We realise that Dae Young has been having similar dreams as Joon Jae, which leads him to realise too that Sim Chung has an important role to play in Joon Jae’s life. Jin Joo’s continues to be a delight to watch and I find her mannerisms so entertaining.
I’ve been thinking about how all the publicity of the show prior to it may have done more harm to it than good, as there were expectations of an epic, grand story with comparisons to Descendants of the Sun. However, from what we’ve seen so far, this show remains content with being simple, light-hearted and fun. As the show moves towards its final half though, I do hope we get into more serious, intense storytelling with the tightening of the links between past and present, our villains taking more concrete action and a greater sense of danger and threat for Sim Chung.