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!
As mentioned in my previous review, the writer is really using the mid-point episodes to set things up for the second half, as evident from what we learn about Ji Wook and Bong Hee’s dads in this episode. As a result of that, the episodes themselves feel rather slow in terms of plot development, unlike many of the previous episodes. The court case involving the mum who took the fall for her son was rather weak too – zipped through and closed with not much fanfare. Nonetheless, we have plenty of juicy, delicious character moments in these two episode, so I’m not really complaining.
While we spent most of the earlier episodes with awkward, bumbling Ji Wook, his charisma is slowly emerging in recent episodes after he admits to his feelings for Bong Hee. The Ji Wook we are seeing now seems liberated, confident and emotionally forthright, giving us hints of the man he was before Yoo Jung and Eun Hyuk’s betrayal happened. He’s persistent in his pursuit of Bong Hee, teasing her and endlessly trying to charm her. Bong Hee is no longer pushing him away, but neither is she fully embracing his affection either. They’re both taking small steps forward, opening up to each other gradually and that gives us plenty of sweet, humorous and heartfelt moments within this episode, like the dish-washing scene, Bong Hee’s confession in the carpark, and their almost-kiss that was hindered by their mugs! Nonetheless, I’m disappointed that he made the choice in this episode to hide the truth yet again from Bong Hee, especially since he knows she’s in such a vulnerable position in relation to Hyun Soo. Hyun Soo’s fascination with Bong Hee is evident, hence I really wish Ji Wook would stop protecting her unnecessarily and let her in on the truth, so they can investigate this together.
Moving on to Hyun Soo, he hasn’t really done much recently but he’s certainly proving himself to be more capable and sharp than your typical cold-blooded murderer. He has a certain method about his madness that’s fascinating and intriguing. More so than his evil actions, I’m truly keen to find out more about what’s going on in his mind and what his bigger game plan is. The exchange between him and Ji Wook was extremely well-played and I loved watching them pit against each other mentally. Hyun Soo never goes as far as to threaten Ji Wook – he’s wiser than that – whatever information he gains, he uses it to his advantage and plays the victim card, so that nothing he says can ever entrap him. Ji Wook also plays his cards close and never unveils his deeper suspicions of Hyun Soo. He’s continually apologetic during the conversation, also playing the unknowing, innocent card, saying that he’s just doing what he feels needs to be done as a prosecutor. The verbal sparring between them is intense and fun to watch and leaves me wondering what Hyun Soo’s next move will be. For a moment, I did wonder if the husband in the court case was killed by Hyun Soo, but I guess not. I foresee he might be taking a pause in his murder spree for the time-being so as to get Bong Hee and Ji Wook to stop pestering him. He might even try to get himself a job in Ji Wook’s firm.
And finally, the big reveal in this episode about their fathers. I’m still waiting to see how this pans out, but at the moment, it feels like way too much of a coincidence for me that their fathers are connected, which I’m certain will become a source of angst subsequently. I’m not sure that we really needed this complication in their relation or in the show as we do have several other storylines and characters I feel have been sorely neglected, like Eun Hyuk and Yoo Jung. However, more importantly, I feel that we really didn’t need yet another source of tension between Bong Hee and Ji Wook, which feels tangential from what’s been developing lately. Nonetheless, I place my trust in the writers who have thus far been competent.
Now that we’ve set up some key pieces for the next half of the series, I’m looking forward to returning to the tightness of writing and quick-footed pace that’s made this show so enjoyable for the first half. There’s indeed lots of material still left for the show to explore, so I’m hopeful for an enjoyable second half of this show.
This episode felt slower – there were too many flashbacks and things just weren’t progressing very much. It was still an enjoyable and meaningful episode and I can see that the episode was also doing some setting up for the next half of the series.
Things have certainly progressed significantly for our protagonists and it’s not hard to see why Bong Hee is reluctant to sacrifice her current stability and satisfaction to enter into a relationship with Ji Wook. After working so hard to keep her feelings aside, she’s settling well into her job and has built a good relationship with her fellow colleagues. More importantly, she’s reached a stage of emotional stability where she can control her feelings for Ji Wook and does not latch on to him for stability. Ji Wook’s confession throws her into a whirlwind of emotions again and makes her vulnerable once again.
I appreciate how characters in this show talk things out, confess their honest feelings for each other and move ahead, rather than avoid their emotions or worse still run away. In that respect, I really liked the conversation the next morning between Ji Wook and Bong Hee, where Ji Wook asks Bong Hee for the permission to like her, a nice reversal from what happened just a few episodes ago. He looks at her with such warm and puppy-dog sincerity that you really have to wonder how Bong Hee managed to stand firm! Then, he gives his most genuine, sweet smile after confessing his feelings that you can see he’s no longer the emotionally detached man from a few episodes ago. I loved the little touch of weakness after they separate and Ji Wook’s bravado cracks and he tries to catch his breath.
The honest conversations continue as Ji Wook and Bong Hee go on an investigation and Bong Hee shares how she’s tried so hard not to like him. I’m really loving how Ji Wook and Bong Hee’s conversations move so smoothly from heart-felt emotional to fun and teasing. Ji Wook’s feigned broad smile after that was hilarious and I enjoyed how he immediately reminded her that now that it’s work, he has the upper hand and he’s boss! After that exchange, we move swiftly into our investigations where we learn new things about our Chan-Ho and Hyun-Soo duo, including the discovery of this photo:
Who’s the third person in this photo? Those certainly look like happier days between Chan-Ho and Hyun-Soo, so what happened in between then to lead to their current tense and unbalanced relationship where Hyun Soo has the upper hand?
Related to the investigation, I’m not liking how Ji Wook and Mr Bang feel the need to hide everything from Bong Hee, especially since Ji Wook already knows that Hyun Soo has been trying to contact with her. This over-protectiveness does not seem necessary, neither does it seem helpful. Obviously, Hyun Soo beat him to it and arranges to meet Bong Hee to tell her he didn’t actually have an alibi on that day. Hyun Soo is certainly a sharp man as he already saw Mr Bang investigating earlier and therefore ups his game. It’s a risky game he is playing though because that would certainly open him up to suspicion, but one has to wonder what game he’s playing then – is he trying to gain Bong Hee’s trust? Why? What exactly is his bigger game plan and why is Bong Hee such a critical piece in this?
I appreciated too that Yoo Jung finally has a bigger purpose to play in the grand scheme of things, after being assigned by the DA to reinvestigate the death of Hee-joon. I’m still not feeling much for her because I was hoping for more ‘softening’ and growth for her character after we saw some her reach out to Eun Hyuk last week, but she still seems to be stuck and dwelling on the past. Eun Hyuk, on the other hand, continues to win me over with his sweetness and supportiveness for Bong Hee. CEO Byun is certainly a ball of fun and just cracks me up in every scene that he’s in.
With Yoo Jung now part of the investigation and the mounting tension between Hyun Soo and Chan Ho, I’m all ready for the stakes to be raised!
Finally – the first kiss between Ji Wook and Bong Hee – that we know of! Heh.
We knew it was coming because the signs were all there – Ji Wook sheepishly following Bong Hee around, his pining looks at her in the office, his jealous stares when seeing her with Eun Hyuk and his overwhelming protectiveness and concern for her. As much as he very much wants to be emotionally distant from her, he just can’t seem to do so. Ironically, it is Bong Hee’s pushing him away that pulls him even closer. She’s determined to stand up for herself and tells him off when he tries to defend her against the District Attorney. She doesn’t want to be indebted to him and tells Eun Hyuk that she’s decided not to like him, but just to become his fan – because then she won’t have any expectations of him. However, in the scene with her mum at the pizza restaurant (seriously, is that the only place where the two of them ever meet?), she can’t hold back her tears anymore and her mum sees through her eyes how much she really likes this man.
On a separate note, we don’t see Bong Hee and Ji Wooks’ mums very often, but I’m really like the dynamics both of them share with their mums, especially between Ji Wook and his mum. The combination of doting, affectionate love together with over-brimming pride is so endearing, perhaps because she has also been trying to make up for the absence of a father figure in his life.
While the love story is making steady progress, it feels like we’re hurtling ahead in a good way with our murder storyline ever since the revelations started coming in. From a simple murder storyline, it’s become a twisted, complex power-play between two characters who still remain rather mysterious and shady. Chan-ho is coming off as the vulnerable one here, living in fear yet so close to cracking and exposing the truth to Bong Hee. So, now we also know that Bong Hee and her ex-boyfriend were actually unfortunate causalities, in the wrong place at the wrong time, and not part of Hyun-soo’s big plan. It makes sense that Hyun Soo would want to keep Bong Hee close, since he knows she’s determined to clear her name and now he knows Chan-Ho is getting close to her. The dynamics between Chan-ho and Hyun-soo are clearer now, but I’m interested in both their backstory as well as what the next step is for them. Is Hyun Soo going to ditch (or kill) Chan Ho, now that he sees him trying to betray him? Honestly, it’d be a very bold move if the show decides to kill off Chan Ho, but even if that happens, I believe it won’t happen so soon because we don’t know enough about him to feel sad at his loss. A killer with a clear yet layered agenda is always more interesting than a killer who gets caught up in an endless cycle of having to commit more murders to cover up his previous ones. While I started this series being completely sucked into the individual stories of Ji Wook and Bong Hee, I’m now sucked into the murder storyline and keen to see what their next steps are.
Besides our love story and murder storyline, there’s plenty to love in the show. I’m really liking the friendship that’s developing between Eun Hyuk and Bong Hee – they don’t like each other, but they can relate and connect to each other very well, because they are both in similar circumstances. Eun Hyuk is such a genuine, good-natured and sweet man and it pained me to see him celebrating his birthday on his own. While he’s always been more jolly and cheerful than Ji Wook, deep down he’s hurting just as much, if not much more because remorse and repentance is always difficult to overcome as it is out of your control. At least Ji Wook sending him an incomplete birthday greeting and Yoo Jung’s present and remembering his birthday provided him with a glimpse of joy in this episode. If there’s something the show hasn’t started exploring yet, it is that journey of reconciliation between Ji Wook, Yoo Jung and Eun Hyuk and now that Ji Wook’s heart has been softened by Bong Hee, perhaps it’s time that he will start opening up and welcoming Eun Hyuk back into his life again. It’s a mark of masterful storytelling that even as the story progresses so swiftly, there’s still so much more interesting and engaging story left to tell that it doesn’t seem like the show is losing steam.
It seems inevitable that I’ll have to comment on the directing of this show in every review, but there’s just so much to say. That kiss scene was so masterfully done – the camera angles, the shots and the music selection – or rather, the complete silence when the kiss happened. Everything was perfectly executed without being overly showy or hyped up. It was a quiet, sweet, tender moment that was as much about two people falling in love as it was about two broken individuals finding their feet in this world again. I’m glad to say I’ve finally found my first drama-crack series of 2017!
Suspicious Partner continues to keep things fresh by bringing different storylines to the forefront in each episode, while also moving the others in the background gradually. There’s a certain art in the way it balances its storylines that’s admirable and I’m hoping it keeps up this momentum because it keeps each episode engaging and interesting.
In this episode, the murderer storyline finally moves to the forefront, with Hyun Soo’s case seemingly providing the answers to everything. I’m honestly surprised that we got the answer to who killed Bong Hee’s boyfriend so quickly, which makes me suspect if this is a red herring. However, it is convincing somewhat that Hyun Soo could have killed Bong Hee’s boyfriend, based on his uncontrollable outburst against those who abused or victimised women. Even with this big reveal, there still remain many unanswered questions that I’m excited to find out more about. What exactly is the relationship between Hyun Soo and Chan Ho? We know they are both accomplices, but is Chan Ho cracking under the guilt of what’s going on? Is that why he seems to be getting closer to Bong Hee – to warn her? Also, why are they still keeping close to Bong Hee, when it would be easier to stay further away, since she’s after all an attorney right now? Perhaps it’s a case of keeping your enemies close, so they are also aware of how far she’s progressing in her investigations. However, what’s the bigger end-game then? If we know that Hyun Soo is against those who victimise women, isn’t his actions of framing Bong Hee also similarly a kind of ‘victimisation’? So many questions, which I hope will be satisfactorily answered.
With the whole Hyun Soo case at the forefront, Ji Wook also got a chance to shine and show off his investigative prowess as well as his keen intuition. I like that we’re getting to see more of his competence come to the forefront. However, he is once again placed in a position of conflict, that even as he has fought a good case to show that the evidence against Hyun Soo was flawed, his own sleuthing has in fact unearthed evidence to prove that Hyun Soo is the murderer. While he was recognised in Hyun Soo’s case for his competence as an attorney, what went unnoticed was his competence as a prosecutor. For Mr Bang, the lines are clear – finding out who the culprit is is not an attorney’s job, but a prosecutor’s job. However, for Ji Wook, things are more murky and I loved the morally grey territory that Ji Wook was treading in throughout the episode. You could see that conflict and uncertainty in Ji Wook’s eyes – as he delivered his final statement, as he heard the verdict and as he went back home that at night.
While the murder and court-room battle took centre stage in tonight’s episode, we certainly also got a good dose of sweetness and fun between Ji Wook and Bong Hee. Ji Wook’s defenses are gradually being broken down and we know it’s a matter of time before he realises he can no longer run away from his feelings. However, I’m really admiring Bong Hee’s maturity in the whole situation. She took a step of courage to confess her liking of Ji Wook, which was definitely not easy given the rejection and pain she suffered after her ex-boyfriend. When she’s turned down by Ji Wook, she tells him the next day honestly to stop treating her nicely, so as not to give her false hopes, and that she wants to go back to hating him, like back when he was her mentor. So, of course, Ji Wook takes the bait and hilariously treats her as she’s requested, sending her climbing through the window in a house to open the door for him. That was good fun! Loved the scene too where he asks her to stay with him, so that he can sleep. She knows that staying with him just that 5 minutes will be tough for her, because it goes against her earlier stated decision to hate him. However, she puts his needs before hers, and decides to stay with him so that he can sleep better.
With the upcoming confrontation between Hyun Soo and Ji Wook, we know that Bong Hee is going to be put in greater danger in the episodes to come and that will certainly mean that Ji Wook’s protectiveness and care for her must come to the forefront. There’s so much to look forward to, yet also so much uncertainty about where the show will take us. Am truly loving this show so much!
I’m still liking this show lots, but I’m starting to feel like our show’s getting a little “crowded” with its latest celebrity chef murder storyline (where both the murderer and the accused get significant screen time) and the appearance of Yoo Jung. Unfortunately as well, I’m not finding Yoo Jung’s character interesting or compelling in anyway, which also makes me wish that we had spent more time on the other characters. Of course it’s still early stages, but she spent most of the episode moping and feebly trying to reconnect with either Ji Wook or Eun Hyuk – which is alright, but I was hoping for there to be more to drive her character ahead than just rebuilding burnt bridges. I don’t hate her, but I don’t sympathise with her either – it’s all just meh at the moment.
And because I didn’t connect with Yoo Jung, I was really hoping we could have spent more time with our other characters. That being said, I liked how we deepened our exploration of Eun Hyuk’s character in this episode and we see the beginnings (the theme of this episode!) of a heartwarming friendly between him and Bong Hee. I really loved the scene where both Bong Hee and Eun Hyuk were in the car, after seeing Ji Wook fetch Yoo Jung home, and Eun Hyuk laughs after Bong Hee tells him that she wishes she were more sick. She responds to him, telling him he doesn’t need to laugh, and so he stops and returns to his contemplative mood. She knows how he’s feeling, and he’s feeling just as unhappy as she is, and she’s telling him that he does not need to pretend or put up a front around her. Eun Hyk confides in Bong Hee earlier, telling her that he’s always laughing and joking, because that’s his own defence mechanism, his way of still allowing himself to be around Ji Wook in spite of all the hurt, remorse, pain and loneliness he feels too. We get scenes of him in his own house – well-furnished, but cold and soulless – and he stares blankly ahead, not knowing what to do, how to feel or what to say and the only thing we see him do is take off his jacket – perhaps symbolic that his defence mechanisms are being worn down too.
Ji Wook and Bong Hee continue to be fun together and while I liked seeing him display some finesse in the courtroom, I enjoyed the scenes of his gentleness even more, especially the one at the start of the episode where he caught Bong Hee’s head as she nodded off with such tenderness that she just continued to lie on his hand, smiling peacefully and comfortably like as if she’s the happiest woman in the world. When he sees her return from that encounter with the District Attorney with a scar around her neck, he senses something is wrong and he goes to check on her in her room. Even when she chooses not to tell him what happened, he does not insist, because he respects her decision to keep it private, but just asks her tenderly whether she’s alright – twice. There’s such a sweetness in him respecting her boundaries and desire to keep it private. This contrasts of course with Bong Hee’s more outlandish, playful nature where she’s unafraid to ask difficult questions, wear her heart on her sleeve and tell people what they need to know. This is why they are so good for each other.
I’ve spoken before about the directing of this show, but I realise what I appreciate is not just that it’s stylistically beautiful and magical, but that it captures human interactions so well. The directing really reveals that we communicate so much through our body language. There’s a lot of focus on ‘hands’ in this show – tender touches, awkward hugs, firm holds, strangling grips, warm embraces and decisive pushing away. We also get many shots of our characters’ eyes, which reveal so much more than what they say, especially for Ji Wook. He may be denying his feelings with his words, but his eyes say everything. His affection for her was just overflowing in that scene in the rain through his entire facial expression – not just his eyes, but his broad, cheerful smile. I believe that’s the first time we’ve ever seen him smile so happily! I’ve always thought The K2 didn’t give JCW enough opportunity to showcase his excellent acting skills, but he gets plenty of opportunities here and I thought he did very well in the closing scene, where his eyes spoke volumes as he responded to Bong Hee’s confession of love. He wanted to hug her in return, but you could just see that deep hurt and fear in his eyes – echoed also in the voice-over as he talks about beginnings that do not necessarily progress.
As for the murderer storyline, it’s alright at the moment, but I realise we still have big questions that remain unanswered that hopefully we get some light on soon, like – why did the murderer kill Bong Hee’s ex-boyfriend? I’m not sure we got a very clear answer on that. I thought we’d be understanding our murderer a bit more, but right now all we have is him lurking around news broadcasts looking mysterious. I’m all ready now for us to move ahead in that storyline, but there’s just so much I’m wanting from this show now, that it’d be impossible for each episode to fulfill my wishes. Heh. Nonetheless, if I may just have one wish for next week’s episodes, let us have more fun scenes between Ji Wook and Bong Hee’s mums – those two are hilarious!
What’s great about Suspicious Partner is that things keep moving around and dynamics keep getting shifted – so much has changed once again from the end of Episode 8 to the end of Episode 10. Ji Wook goes from being an attorney employed by CEO Byun to being a prosecutor who hires CEO Byun, Eun Hyuk, Bong Hee and Mr. Jang. Our protagonists have yet another farewell, but once again reunite. From being isolated and lonely, Ji Wook and Bong Hee now almost have a new sort of ‘family’ in Ji Wook’s new firm. Everyone’s at a better place emotionally – especially our two protagonists and yes, I’ve never heard the word ‘hostage’ used in such a cool and sweet manner. Eun Hyuk and Ji Wook’s friendship have moved an inch ahead as Ji Wook has accepted Eun Hyuk into his firm.
This show is certainly turning out to be a lot of fun and I’m really enjoying the energy of the entire ensemble, not just between our two protagonists. Can I just say how much I’m loving CEO Byun? He’s cares a lot for Ji Wook, in a somewhat overbearing and imposing manner that Ji Wook can’t stand, but also cannot turn down because he’s just such a warm and fuzzy figure. I loved that scene of him scheming with Mr Jang to fall on the floor crying and asking Mr Jang to flip over the table – and he actually did it! Mr Jang is also equally hilarious and Eun Hyuk’s unabashed, persistent ‘love’ (in his own words) for Ji Wook is endearing. While I was previously annoyed by the unnecessary sound effects, I thought they were done very well in this episode – just subtly inserted into the scenes between Ji Wook and Bong Hee, like little embellishments to make a moving scene that little bit more quirky and cute. The tonal shifts continue to be well done – I especially liked how we moved from the deep, serious and painful interaction between Ji Wook and Yoo Jung at the start, to the playful tone as Bong Hee has way too much fun pretending to be Ji Wook’s partner. Loved how the show moved from the more deep conversation between Ji Wook and Eun Hyuk in the park to the comical fight scene between them and the teenagers, which started with the two of them evaluating the legal implications of their actions.
Mixed in with all the humour is more important revelations on what happened between Yoo Jung, Ji Wook and Eun Hyuk in the past. We learn that the three of them used to be close friends, with Yoo Jung and Eun Hyuk being Ji Wook’s only friends by his side after his dad left. Eun Hyuk liked Yoo Jung first, but she liked Ji Wook. He tried to give up his feelings for her but couldn’t, which resulted in the betrayal. We’ve always sensed that the friendship between Ji Wook and Eun Hyuk went deep, and now we know just how deep it went. This explains why Ji Wook can never forgive Eun Hyuk, but also why Eun Hyuk is so persistent in ‘winning’ Ji Wook back. The set up seems almost too neat and we can see how everything will eventually fall together nicely with both Ji Wook & Bong Hee and Eun Hyuk & Yoo Jung pairing up at the end, but there are definitely emotional hurdles on many fronts that need to be overcome before everything gets tied together in a neat, happy bow.
On the note of emotional hurdles, our protagonists also take strides ahead. I admire Bong Hee’s courage and independence. In spite of her desperate situation – financially and emotionally – she chooses not to cling to Ji Wook and leaves his place. While it’s an act of courage, it’s also in part an act of cowardice because she’s fearful of getting overly attached to him, which can in itself become a source of weakness and lead her to become emotionally vulnerable. I liked how Ji Wook went to find her to get her back, yet in that conversation, they still keep their distance and sit far apart. Unlike Bong Hee who is indeed shameless and keeps all her emotions at the surface, Ji Wook’s emotions runs deep. Ji Wook can immediately tell from Bong Hee’s eyes that she wants to know more about Yoo Jung, but Bong Hee is unable to tell from his face if he’s serious about wanting her back. When she tells that she can’t tell he’s serious, Ji Wook has to artificially and uncomfortably force his face to display his seriousness – which is very telling of how he may have grown so cold and distant from the world around him that he no longer knows how to display his emotions, except through actions. Even in showing his care for Bong Hee, he phrases it very business-like, as him having to keep her hostage so as to catch the killer. However, we know it’s more than that because we get insights into how he feels when she’s gone and that whole sequence of him walking throughout his house with scenes of Bong Hee packing snacks for him, tidying his fridge and packing her bag was so well-done – so heartfelt, poignant and tender – a beautiful combination of strong writing, great acting and competent direction.
Oh – and on the directing – wasn’t it great how we were first shown the scenes between Yoo Jung and Ji Wook from the past from Ji Wook’s perspective, and then later on, we got shown the exact same scenes, but from Eun Hyuk’s perspective. Both flashbacks were deeply painful, but for very different reasons.
And finally, we also have a murderer on the loose, whose intentions seem slightly murky at the moment. The murderer storyline is getting slightly less attention at this point, which is fine by me because it is no longer the key driving force of the narrative as it was in episodes 3 and 4. Nonetheless, it continues to intrigue me and I’m sensing and also hoping that we’ll get to know our murderer better, that he’ll not just be a one-dimensional, cold-blooded killer, but someone whom we’ll come to understand and relate to. For now, it does seem like he’s a lonely, but smart person. His awareness of forensic procedures gives him that edge that allows him to always escape being captured. His crime goes beyond simply killing people, but also setting it up such that others get accused. While he doesn’t actually kidnap them, his act of framing them keeps them ‘hostage’ and trapped, stuck with that label of murderer that can never be removed – as we’ve seen with Bong Hee.
The only character who isn’t quite working for me at the moment is Yoo Jung, who still seems rather one-dimensional as the ex who’s bent on getting her partner back at all cost. Of course, her air time in the present day storyline has been rather brief, so I may be judging her too soon.
With so many new kdramas beginning this week, we’re spoilt for choice and I could only follow one show due to the busyness of my schedule. I’m glad I chose Suspicious Partner, because it’s turning out to be one of the most fun yet meaningful shows I’ve watched!
After having seen Ji Chang Wook play very macho and heroic figures in Healer and K2, the vulnerability and ineptness of his character in Suspicious Partner is really a refreshing change. It might be too early to say, but this show has the potential to be that career-changing show for him; even if the ratings don’t go sky high, I believe it will open up new possibilities for him for new genre of dramas. It’s too bad this is his last show before enlistment, at least he’s going out with a bang.
I’m once again glad to see the relationship between Ji Wook and Bong Hee moving to new places. They’ve come pretty far by working through misunderstandings, confronting their feelings towards the other (but only to themselves) and being able to look beyond their own pride to ask for help (for Bong Hee) or to help (for Ji Wook). They are at a different stage now – still not love yet – but Ji Wook is no longer pushing her away, and even actively offering his hand of protection and arm of comfort to her. Things were going too well in this episode that we inevitably could foresee Ji Wook’s ‘ex coming back into the equation soon. At one point, I was even wondering if Ji Wook’s faithfully waiting upon Bong Hee was another imagination or fantasy of hers. Bong Hee has rather quickly climbed out of her emotional rut. Just in episode 7, she was alone, down and homeless; now, she has a home and someone who takes care of her and protects her. Should there be a farewell coming up again between them, it’s going to be even more painful than the previous ones. On a lighter note, she also gained the upper-hand over Ji Wook with him waking up after a night of drunkenness and not knowing if they slept together.
I haven’t spoken much about the other characters in the show, namely because our two protagonists have been so fascinating. However, Eun Hyuk is definitely growing on me and I’m liking his fun and positive energy, a good contrast to Ji Wook’s more melancholic nature. His characterisation is not exactly deep at the moment, but I’m definitely intrigued to see what went on between him and Ji Wook in the past. This character is working much more for me compared to the darker, murderous Tae-Ho that Choi Tae-joon played in Missing 9. Honestly, I partly blame the character Tae-Ho for making Missing 9 boring for me, turning it from an intriguing mystery about island survival to a serial killer ‘thriller’. Coming back to Suspicious Partner, Eun Hyuk’s warmth is endearing. We know he’ll always be there for Ji Wook, regardless of what happens. I do hope he’s not the one that Yoo Jung slept with, because it seems a little too simplistic. For now though, I’m appreciating the fun he brings, like how he teased Ji Wook into thinking he knew about who Bong Hee was interviewing with and how he pushed the three scoundrel lawyers into their urinals.
And then we finally meet Yoo Jung in this episode as well. Not too sure how to feel about her character yet, though I’m liking that her and Bong Hee hit it off well and like each other. In fact, I see some potential for a budding friendship between both of them, which adds a nice complexity to their relationship instead of pitting them against each other as love rivals.
With our murderer’s face finally revealed, things are sailing along nicely in this show with a good mix of suspense, humour, warmth and sweetness.
I’m reviewing 6 & 7 together even though both aired on different days because I watched them in one sitting and felt I had a lot to say about both and didn’t want to lump episode 8 into the mix as well.
I’ve seen the term ‘drama crack’ used a lot on dramabeans before to refer to dramas that are just so addictive and enjoyable. I’ve never really experienced that before – perhaps also because of my preference for more intense dramas and the previous lighter dramas failed to really draw me in. Those I tried to watch include Strong Woman Do Bong Soo and Jealousy Incarnate. However, I sense that Suspicious Partner may be my first experience of a ‘drama crack’.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s by no means a perfect drama. I find some of the comedic elements very overdone, especially the unnecessarily wacky sound effects – especially so because Ji Chang Wook and Nam Ji-hyun are perfectly able to convey humour through their acting without the additional embellishments. Take the scene in ep7 of her recapping the night before when the killer was in her office – Nam Ji-hyun’s portrayal of Bong Hee is able to capture that combination of fear and exhilaration so well. That was a very well done scene overall – moving from her fear and anxiety, to humour, to Ji Wook’s bewilderment at her reaction to a more sombre mood as she recounts her pain over the past two years and finally more tender, romantic tone as Ji Wook invites her to his place. The tonal shift is done really well.
I don’t think I’ve met a character so cut off and as lonely as Bong Hee in the kdramas I’ve watched. She has not a single close friend within the drama, no siblings and while she is close to her mum, she lives alone and chooses not to burden her because her mum has grown disappointed in her. Her loneliness makes her strength and courage all the more admirable. I did find it rather odd though that given her will and determination to prove herself, that she didn’t do much within the 2 years time-leap to prove herself. Perhaps she was too caught up in the survival needs of life – needing to first find a job to provide for her mum. She’s ‘stalking’ and leaning onto Ji Wook now because he’s the only person who has really shown her care and protectiveness, but even so, she can’t fully get close to him because she feels so indebted to him, for causing him to lose his job to save her. Also, as he indirectly tells her in the courtroom scene, her stalking behaviour also has negative repercussions on him.
Ji Wook isn’t in very much of a better place himself after the two year leap. He carries himself with a certain limpness in his spirit, without the previous sharpness or strength. It’s evident that being an attorney has sapped his energies, because he’s someone who is a man of honour, who stands on the side of the law and stands up for righteousness. This is also because of his promise to his dad. He has spent two years just going through the motions, lost, yearning to go back to his life as a prosecutor.
While him and Bong Hee running into each other after 2 years in the courtroom is one too many coincidences even for me, I liked how it sparked off a reminder in him of what he used to stand for. Beyond just breaking the monotony of his life, her re-entry into his life brings back in him his sense of protectiveness – something that he has arguably not felt for a long time. He springs into action to protect her, because he realises that leaving her alone for 2 years has not helped. Not that Bong Hee is helpless as a person, but she’s up against much bigger forces that she can fight against. The District Attorney has made it his personal agenda to ensure she fails – the unforgiving media has ensured that her label as the woman who killed her ex-boyfriend can never be erased. Courageous and smart as she may be, she cannot overcome these forces. She may be able to save a woman from her stalker, but that means nothing in light of the bigger picture of her personal circumstances. Hearing her account of her past two years, Ji Wook decides he can’t leave her on her own anymore, that his decision to walk away has not helped and he agrees first to work together with her to find a murderer – which is arguably the first thing in two years that he’s genuinely felt convicted to do.
On his own accord, he even walks up to the District Attorney to confront him about his ‘bullying’ of Bong Hee, unafraid and uncaring about his own reputation. Once again, he puts his career on the line for Bong Hee, but not exactly for her either – more for what she represents to him. I’m liking all the little touches of Ji Wook catching Bong Hee and preventing her from falling further – especially the courtroom scene where he just firmly gripped the chair to prevent it from rolling back – such a gentlemanly, sweet and protective gesture. Her tea may not be able to solve his insomnia, but having her in his life allows him to sleep more peacefully. Perhaps his insomnia stems from a troubled soul that Bong Hee is able to calm, that she fills a void in his life that he never acknowledged or realised.
I’m liking how fast the relationship is progressing and that Ji Wook has moved past denial land and we’re getting our characters confronting their feelings, taking action about it and drawing closer. With Bong Hee moving into Ji Wook’s home, there’s now a more natural, logical setting for them to interact, without having to rely on even more coincidences. Of course in dramaland, things will never be so smooth and we know there will be more farewells between both of them, but as long as these farewells continue to bring our characters to new places, I say bring it on!
Am also loving the 2nd OST song released this week:
It’s a busy period for me now. Only had time to squeeze in the viewing of Ep 5 today, so thought I’d quickly jot down my thoughts on this first!
This series is coming together really nicely. While I felt Episodes 1 and 2 were a little shaky in terms of tone and flimsy in terms of plot, the pieces are quickly falling in and the sources of tension are piling up to drive the story ahead meaningfully. The problem with some shows is the reliance either only on the romance or on the battle against the villain as the driving force, which results in padding because you can only keep the couple apart for so long, or much back and forth in the storyline because the villain cannot be defeated too early. This is clearly not the case for Suspicious Partner because while the romance is important, we see our leads have their own independent yet equally captivating storyline. The show is currently juggling the different plotlines very well.
I’m getting increasingly fascinated by the character of Bong Hee. She started off rather stereotypically as the brash and energetic female character who gets rejected and falls into the arms of another man when drunk. However, her inner world has become more interesting as the show progresses. In this episode, we see that while she’s lonely, it’s almost as if she doesn’t want to connect and chooses deliberately to live by herself either because of the fear of connecting or the fear of burdening others. I was wondering why Bong Hee would return immediately to her home, which is the site of Hee Joon’s murder and makes her also an easy victim for the murderer – wouldn’t she at least want to stay with her mum for a while? However, this could reveal her desire not to burden others, even if it means making herself more vulnerable. I really liked the scene between her and Hee Joon’s dad. While I completely resented Hee Joon’s dad’s verbally and almost physically abusive behaviour (such a contrast to the calm and collected hospital director he played in Romantic Doctor), I thought Nam Ji-hyun did a marvellous job of portraying that mix of fear, respect for seniority and courage in standing up to him and refusing to be cowed into confessing to the murder. While her voice and entire being quivered, there was a clear firmness in her eyes and spirit.
We’re only 3 (or 5, depending on how you count) episodes in, but our protagonists are now in very different states from the first episode yet that differences is ironically what makes them so similar and relatable. Both have become increasingly more isolated and cut off from the people around them. Both feel a burden to their parents; both now feel a need to prove themselves, yet both protagonists continue to portray a strong front to those around them and even to each other, only willing to admit their weaknesses when alone.
Ji Wook now struggles between his attorney role and his constant reminder of his dad’s hopes for him. I loved the scene when he went into frenzied rage and told the rich woman’s son off. However, instead of facing the son, he turns away and it’s almost like a monologue – like that sense of righteousness takes over his being and he loses control of his behaviour. Ji Chang Wook’s manliness has often been associated more with physical strength, athleticism and heroism in the shows I’ve watched. We’re seeing a different side of it in this show and that is in his assertiveness and moral fibre. He may not be jumping across buildings or taking down villains, but Ji Wook is certainly a man of strong character and that makes him equally admirable and heroic compared to the other more obviously heroic characters he’s played.
This heroism is not a straightforward one and he vacillates back and forth, especially towards Bong Hee. I loved the scene where he admitted he was worried for her as a mentor but is now no longer worried – yet as he says bye to her and asks her to take care of herself, there’s such tenderness and concern that it’s so evident that he cares for her. This is something that even Hee Joon’s dad can see – that he was so charmed by her that he put his career on the line for her. I get a feeling that Ji Wook will be living in denial land for quite a while but that’s really not an issue because I am interested in seeing both characters grow.
I continue to enjoy the direction of the show, whether it’s the deft switch of tones from romance to comedy in the scene where Ji Wook bumps into Bong Hee at the site where the knife was found, or the very dreamy glow of the scenes where Bong Hee is looking upon Ji Wook for strength. This show continues to be solid and a delight to watch!