Shows I’ve been following

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There have been quite a lot of new shows lately, in addition to good ones that are still continuing. I must say we are quite spoiled for choice for shows from a wide variety of genres during this period. Here are some shows I’m following lately and my current thoughts on them.

The King Eternal Monarch (up to episode 13)

The intensity has certainly waned ever since that huge clash on the street between Lee Gon and Lee Rim’s forces in Episode 11. I was expecting things to heat up and both Lee Gon and Lee Rim to start moving chess pieces faster and take more decisive action. However, they both seem to be taking their time and giving each other time to react.

We still have many questions unanswered and there are only three episodes left. We are getting reveals, but they aren’t picked up in the subsequent episode, like Court Lady Noh’s reveal. I was surprised that Lee Gon was not alert enough to prevent himself from getting poisoned by Luna, yet he was able to make that huge realisation just before he collapsed. Also, I was not as shocked by the reveal as there weren’t many other characters left who could have been there to save him, plus the moment Tae-Eul gave him that jacket, I already saw it coming.

Let’s hope we get more answers this weekend and that things get taken up a notch!

Mystic Pop-up Bar (up to episode 4)

This show is a whole lot of fun! While both TKEM and Mystic Pop-up Bar are both supernatural shows with a lot of world-building to do, Mystic Pop-up Bar takes itself far less seriously and keeps adding new rules, new aspects and new characters to its world-building in each episode. It does so with such light-heartedness that we are less inclined to scrutinise it.

I much preferred the first two episodes where we saw the characters in the case of the week going through personal triumphs and changes, as opposed to the cases in Episodes 3 and 4 where our trio basically used their powers to tweak the circumstances and situations in favour of the characters they were trying to save. Those stories felt more meaningful to me, though my heartstrings were certainly also pulled by all the stories lately.

What’s most delightful is the chemistry between Wool-Ju, Manager Gwi and Kangbae and how they play to each other’s strengths. I’m loving the little snippets of back-story that we get in each episode – it’s sufficient to tantalise us to want to find out more, yet it also deepens our understanding of our characters and where they are now.

When My Love Blooms (up to Episode 10)

The relationships and emotions in this series definitely go deep and just when you think there cannot be any more pain, each episode takes us deeper and deeper into the suffering felt by Ji-Soo and Jae-Hyun – both in the past and the present. There’s so much in this show about trauma, healing, reconciliation, relationships and ultimately just growing as people.

What I’m loving the most about this show is that it gives its characters time and space to talk, to connect and understand each other – be it our lead couple, or between them and their sons or between friends. The relationships, the characters and their stories get so deeply fleshed out.

I’m loving the performances by Yoo Ji-Tae and Lee Bo-Young so much too!

Mystic Pop-Up Bar Episodes 1 & 2 Review

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JTBC’s first drama to air on a Wednesday-Thursday time-slot delves into the supernatural as it features a pop-up bar manned by three members, all of whom have supernatural abilities.

The female lead is Wol-Joo, played by Hwang Jung-eum, and she has the ability to enter people’s dreams and psyche to help them resolve their problems or inner turmoil. Playing her superior, Chief Gwi, is Choi Won-Young, who is there to keep her in check and to support her in her goal of helping 100,000 human beings. In the first episode, Wol-Joo and Chief Gwi come across Han Kang-bae (played by Yook Sung-Jae) who has the ability to make people pour out the truth and their deepest darkest secrets to him when he touches their hands. They see him as being extremely valuable in helping Wol-Joo identify those who need help and how to help them. Within the second episode, Kang-bae is recruited into their team and the trio are all ready to work towards the Wol-Joo’s goal of 100,000.

Woel-Joo certainly reminds us a lot of Jang Man Wol from Hotel Del Luna, especially her personality and also her sad past. However, this drama certainly isn’t a copy cat and has a clear and distinct tone as well as different rules from Hotel Del Luna. It’s a highly creative show which is able to blend humour and darker themes and moments very well. For now, the format of the show seems to follow a “case of the week” format, with each episode featuring a different human that the trio will help. The issues are certainly very real and dark, with the first two episodes exploring issues to do with workplace sexual harassment, jealousy, trauma and living with guilt. I thought the first episode was bolder than the second, with many scenes of the male superior harassing the female subordinate that made me very uncomfortable. The second episode dealt with a somewhat more familiar type of story, of hidden pasts and guilt.

However, even though the issues may be familiar, the ways in which they are explored are unique. Woel-Joo gives a special magic liquor to those that she wants to help, causing them to go into a deep sleep where she can then enter their dreams. From the first episode, we see that Mi-ran enters into a room where she can see her memories and Woel-Joo dealing with Mr Park. From that, Woel-Joo then gains strength to report Mr Park the next day.

After watching the first episode, I expected the second episode to follow roughly the same formula again, with Kang-Bae agreeing to help and then they go into someone’s dream and helps them. However, even in the second episode, the show starts to throw a wrench in how things happen and reveals even more fun and fascinating facts! Woel-Joo refuses to help the Ms Andong after Kang-Bae makes her reveal that she actually caused the death of her daughter’s, Eun-Su’s, real mum through spreading rumours. This makes Kang-bae resort to having to steal Woel-Joo’s liquor so he can help the Eun-Su. I really liked how the show was willing to already push the boundaries and show us what happens when someone unauthorised uses the liquor.

However, the show gets even more fun when the trio go in search of Eun-Su’s real father, because Ms Andong’s last wish before she died was for Eun-Su to meet him. They realise the father was traumatised after his wife’s death and now had amnesia. He blocked out all that happened back then, including the happy memories. While this is a very serious and tragic issue, the show explores this in such a fun, humorous manner while not trivialising it. The trio realises that they need to go deep down into the man’s psyche to unearth his memories and they literally walk down a deep, dark spiral staircase and reach a locked door, behind which his memories are stashed. It was both exciting and humorous to see them try to unlock the door, but Kang-bae saves the day as he recalls the man’s birthday. The visuals were over the top, with the collapsing pathway to the door, but it’s so crazy and fun.

If you can’t already tell, I love this show! Woel-Joo is so hilarious in her directness and her mannerisms, but we know she has a dark and painful past that will come to haunt her in the episodes to come. Hwang Jung-eum has such a manic energy about her and she’s so charismatic and confident. The character of Woel-Joo is very well written thus far and we know enough of her from each episode to sympathise with her and also yearn to find out more about what exactly her sins were in the past, that made her choose coming to earth instead of the Hell of Extinction.

The first two episodes have put the show off on a good footing by setting up the dynamics and providing so much laughs and excitement. I’m certainly looking forward to more visits to our Mystic Pop-up Bar!

Unlocking the Keys to Kdrama Webminar

Dear readers, I’m planning to have a webinar soon to cover a comprehensive approach to appreciate Kdrama using 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. I will draw on literary and film analysis learnt from my Masters in Literature and Education and also my experience writing 200 blog entries.

If you are interested, do indicate your interest by clicking this link!