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!
Healer continues to shine in its penultimate episode, where there is no shortage of exciting plot developments, solid character interactions and deep exploration of issues of identity. This is a longer entry than usual, but do indulge me as I’d like to give full credit to all the great work that’s being done in this episode. To make it easier to follow, I’ll break up this entry into sections.
The war with Elder
The war between Elder and our good guys continues to fascinate me and it was delightful to watch how the ball kept shifting from the baddie’s court to the good guy’s court throughout. This kept the tension, suspense and excitement at a high!
We start off with the victory clearly in Elder’s team, as they’ve captured both Moon-Ho and Young Shin in order to get what they want through a very well-coordinated plan. I continue to be impressed with how the writer makes both our good guys and bad guys very credible opponents for each other. Manager Ahn, who has only been introduced recently, is certainly intelligent, scheming and quick-thinking. While I’m on the side of our good guys, I did enjoy watching him gradually corner Jung Hoo through many different tactics.
In order to save Young Shin, Jung Hoo finally confesses and agrees to be hired by Elder. However, he quickly regains the advantage by going into hiding and working with Min-ja to expose the four who were involved in Dong Chul’s killing. He manages to break into their hide-out to obtain all their finger-prints, which Min-ja sends to Detective Yoon. In addition, he also gains entry into the Double S security headquarters. Just as things are looking good for our good guys, we see that Manager Ahn’s team has identified Min-ja’s hiding location and sent a team to take her out, which Jung-Hoo only realises at the last minute. He runs to her rescue and they manage to escape in the nick of time and all of this leads Jung Hoo to realise he needs to up his offensive and really take out Elder. This continually shifting power is fun and engaging to watch and keeps the energy level high till the end, when we finally see the four good guys walking together, ready for war – which was such an amazing scene by the way!
In the midst of the ongoing war, there’s still plenty of very solid interactions between our characters and it’s great that all the key characters have an important role to play in this war.
Underlying the ongoing war between Elder and the good guys is the tension between Moon-ho and Moon-shik, which has always been well handled. Here, we see Moon-Shik’s attempt to protect his brother from further harm by Elder by making him the head of Jaeil Newspaper. We know that Elder had plans to eradicate Moon Ho, hence I was actually convinced that Moon-Shik had intervened to save his brother. When they retire into the study, we once again see Moon-Shik’s delusion as he genuinely believes that Jung-hoo’s hiring by Elder will be good for him. However, Moon-Shik’s confident demeanour shatters when Moon-ho talks about how he has been tormented by the lies he had to tell and eventually exposes the truth about Ji-Ahn. Yoo Ji-tae is always excellent and he really conveys Moon-ho’s state of tormented guilt very powerfully. This revelation that Ji-Ahn is still alive leads Moon-Shik to become anxious – a rare sight, indeed – and he immediately rips away the bug that Myung Hee has planted behind the photo frame. But it’s too late as Myung Hee finally realises the truth!
Realising that Moon-Shik has been hiding the truth from her all this while leads her to finally take decisive actions to leave him and I found that scene so brutal and powerful. We often see Moon-Shik and Myung Hee at the dining table, with Moon-Shik enjoying the spread prepared by her, hence the dining table was the perfect location for their parting to happen. The whole moment just sneaks upon Moon-Shik as Myung Hee thanks him for eating her food and for taking care of her all these years. The tone of what she says immediately causes Moon-Shik’s expression to change and he expresses such a tenderness and vulnerability that almost made me sympathise with him. We learn that Moon-Shik agreed to marry Myung Hee even after she told him that she couldn’t be his woman and also that she had struggled to love him all these years. It’s so sad to hear this as it shows how starved of affection and love Moon-Shik has been all this while, but he did bring all this upon himself. Moon-ho then steps in and Myung Hee decides to go off immediately, not giving Moon-Shik a chance to explain further as she goes to find her daughter. While the scene was certainly sad, there was also some satisfaction gained to see Moon-Shik finally get his comeuppance for all his deception.
I honestly felt genuinely happy for Myung-Hee when she entered the Someday office and was smiling all the way when the Someday team received her and especially when Young Shin started talking to her. We still don’t get the mother-daughter reunion, but that’s alright because their interactions are so delightful and charming to watch. Loved it when Young Shin snuck over to close the office door, then started to talk about her boyfriend with Myung-Hee. Park Min-Young once again nails it, putting in such a hilarious and adorable performance. Do Ji-won really plays Myung-Hee so perfectly, with such a radiant and nurturing presence. Myung-Hee also contributes to the ongoing war with Elder through an interview with Moon-Ho, where she exposes the truth about Omega Holdings which Moon-ho then links to Elder. Myung Hee has really been through such a hard time for most of this series, with little opportunity for happiness and I was really glad to see her finally experience joy and victory in this episode.
While things are going well for Young Shin in office and with her mum, things are less happy and cheery between her and Jung Hoo. While I did enjoy seeing them interact over the past few episodes, it was also good to have them apart for most of this episode, so that there’s space for both characters, particularly Jung Hoo, to pursue their own part in this battle with Elder. As Young Shin learns that she was used to manipulate Jung Hoo into partnering with Elder, she too knows that their temporary parting is for her own safety, but she can’t let go and asks to fight together with him. When she asks Jung Hoo when she will next see him, he has no answer for her, but can only hold her in his arms tightly. It’s such a moving scene, with so much emotions conveyed through both what is said and unsaid. While she is unable to be there by his side, Young Shin continues to play her part to support him, telling Moon-Ho that she wants to complete the 1992 story and will cover Jung Hoo’s part too. When asked if she’s afraid after being targeted by Elder, she uses a very cute analogy of zombies, where staying put is worse than fighting, because staying put means you’ll become a zombie too. She’s courageous not because she’s by nature fearless, but because that’s the only right response at this moment, in order to defend the truth and the man that she loves. Even while she’s apart from Jung Hoo, he still remains her confidante and she talks to him in her thoughts, asking him whether she should tell Myung Hee that she’s her daughter. The connection between both her and Jung Hoo remains strong, even as they are physically apart.
It was great to also see Min-ja being thrown into the battlefield this time as she becomes a target and the meeting between her and Jung-Hoo is truly humourous and fun. When he sees her running away, his first response is not that of anxiety, but to ask her, “You’re ajumma?” and even ask whether she wears that attire to meet people. It’s such a tense moment, but played so well for humour. Her subsequent interactions with Jung-hoo in the car are also such a delight to watch as she keeps looking away from him, but he keeps looking at her teasingly. I also loved that we got cute moments between her and Detective Yoon, whose crush on her is so evident in this episode and so charming. In the bigger scheme of things, the storyline of her leaving the police force and their investigations into the Omega holdings also becomes part of this war with Elder and it’s great to see all the different storylines just being pulled together. There’s a happy ending in sight for ajumma, not just in terms of her mission with Healer, but for her own personal journey and it’s really to the show’s credit that her journey was steadily developed over the series.
Jung Hoo & his search for identity
I’ve saved the best for last in this review and that would certainly be Jung Hoo’s journey. In the previous episode, we watched him struggle with adapting to the “normal” life. As he decides to take on the Bong Soo identity full-time, he becomes meek, socially awkward and continually tired. However, as he switches back to Healer mode in this episode, we see him sharp, energised and at ease with himself. The scenes of him trying different means to obtain the fingerprints were a nice reminder of how fun it was to watch Healer at work. I also loved seeing him breeze through the corridors of the headquarters of Double S security and finally just sit comfortably beside the guy monitoring what happened. It’s clear the normal life is not for him, or rather, that he can only fully be himself when doing what Healer does.
After passing the evidence to Dae Young at the river, he reflects on what’s going on and expresses his confusion. Even as he has learnt how to win, he does not know who he’s fighting against. Witnessing Min-ja being attacked makes him realise that he can no longer be reactive and simply take instructions from those who commission him. He realises that he needs to take ownership and leadership in this war. Following Teacher’s death, Moon-ho had told Jung-hoo to let him take action, because the issues with Moon-Shik and Elder were too complex for him. However, at this point, when Elder has threatened the lives of Moon-Ho, Young Shin and Min-Ja, Jung-Hoo realises that he can no longer just take instructions anymore. When he tells Min-ja at the end “I’m the Healer. Try trusting me”, it’s a great moment of victory and confidence for him as he is now giving direction to her, after having taken instructions from her all his life. I just read an interview with Song Ji-na and she responds to the question of what Jung-Hoo discovers with a quotation that she liked: “I can’t be free if the people around me aren’t free. Therefore, I fight for their freedom so that I may be free.”
The episode ends with our four good guys, walking resolutely ahead ready for battle and we know that whatever the plan that unfolds has been developed by Jung Hoo. What an exciting and rewarding journey it has been to watch our hero grow through both the trials and the victories in his life! Compared to other shows where we enter the finale uncertain of whether we’ll get a happy or sad ending, I’m 100% sure that the ending of Healer will be a happy one. Our characters certainly deserve that happy ending after all they’ve been through. Can’t wait to watch the finale!
After the victory of the good guys in Episode 17, Elder and his forces strike back with a vengeance, putting our key protagonists’ reputation and lives in jeopardy. It’s always satisfying when the good and bad guys are equally matched, keeping us as viewers on our edge as they continue to outwit and outsmart each other. We know that the good guys will eventually emerge victorious, but the characters of Elder and Moon Shik have been sufficiently built up such that we know they are forces to be reckoned with.
Several episodes earlier, I spoke about how Moon Shik seems to be numbed to the evil that he does when he cremates Teacher’s ashes and talks about how he needs to help Jung-hoo and Young-Shin socialise. In this episode, we witness the process of his downfall, which starts off with an unfortunate incident with The Farmers, that results in Gil-han being murdered by them. Following that, Moon-Shik falls into the hands of Elder’s men and they gradually brainwash him into accusing Joon-seok of the murder. The sequence of him gradually being brainwashed is brilliantly acted by Son Seong-won. He initially starts off trembling and afraid, then becomes compliant and listless, but by the end, he’s alert and sharp, falsely accusing Joon-seok of the murder with such conviction and clarity. This is even more brilliantly juxtaposed with a scene of Moon-shik reading a book as he remembers what happened, completely unshaken by that memory as he picks up a biscuit crumb. It’s such a brief scene, but so chilling and scary as we see how far Moon-shik has fallen. When he lies to Myung-Hee about suspecting Joon-seok all this while and being glad that Moon-ho’s broadcast clarified it all, he says it without even batting an eye-lid. His soul has become so corrupt and perverted that he can no longer distinguish truth from lies.
When he later on decides to change the script completely for the broadcast with Min-jae, it completely throws Moon-ho off his game because Someday will no longer be able to counter his responses through their broadcast. Moon-shik manages to twist the whole story of the illegal broadcast station to his benefit and honestly, it’s such an intelligent and cunning move because it manages to portray himself as a defender of free press while also completely discrediting everything that Moon-ho and Someday has claimed. With all the tapes in Moon-Shik’s hands, Moon-ho is also left without any counter-attack and can only express his rage and frustration.
All the intensity and excitement of the battle between Moon-ho and Moon-shik is nicely contrasted with the light-hearted and fun storyline of Jung-hoo’s adjustment to living as a “normal person”. This leads to many funny scenes that are too numerous to list, the best ones being his encounter with Young-Shin in her room where she tells him what a normal boyfriend will do, and his subsequent encounter with Young-Shin’s dad which Young Shin listens on to while eating ice-cream. I loved also how the whole Someday team rallied around Jung-hoo and cheered him on for a job well done, because it represents the first time he’s ever had a community affirming his work. Having personally loved Bong-Soo’s character, I was glad to see the return of “Bong-Soo” in this episode too as he awkwardly responds to all the warmth shown by the Someday team and also cowers in fear in response to Young-Shin’s dad.
Underlying all the humour and fun is a serious exploration of identity, which began in episode 15 when he asked Min-ja who the real him was and whether it even exists. When observing Bong-soo’s acceptance by the Someday team, Moon-ho tells Young-shin that living like a normal person is hard, to which Young-shin responses that “I think living like other people means not knowing what you’re doing. What’s so great about that?”, which is so true. Previously as Healer, Jung-hoo’s life was clear and straightforward – all he needed to do was to take instructions from Min-ja, with the ultimate goal to earn enough money to buy himself an island. As a “normal person”, he now needs to understand the rules of society and live by them. It means getting able to win people over not just by completing missions, but by being savvy in human relationships and engaging people.
Jung-Hoo reverts to “Healer” mode when he sees Moon-ho’s reaction to Moon-shik’s broadcast, proposing to steal the tapes for him, but Moon-ho tells him instead that he has so much more to tell him and Young Shin and just have beer together. Jung-hoo may have given up the job of Healer, but the Healer instincts still remain in him and cannot be ignored. At the end of the episode, when he sees the camera in the carpark of Moon Ho’s place, he immediately swings into action, switching into “Healer” mode with such ease and comfort. I foresee the eventual path that Young Shin and Jung-hoo settle down on has to be a balance between the “normal life” and “Healer life” because truly, being “Healer” has been Jung Hoo’s “normal” mode for so long already. More importantly, Young Shin was also initially drawn to both Jung Hoo’s “Bong-soo” and “Healer” identity, hence he will need to find a balance between both.
While Jung-hoo’s juggling of multiple identities is a more extreme case, it certainly isn’t unrealistic and is a common challenge that all of us face in real life. We all hold multiple identities as well, whether it’s at work, at home, or in other settings. At some point in our lives, most of us would have asked ourselves which of these identities are our “real selves”, or perhaps it’s something deeper that underlies all these different “selves”. Jung Hoo’s journey is thus something that we all can relate to.
Beyond all that has already been mentioned, I also enjoyed very much the Jung-hoo and Moon-ho scenes in this episode because it shows the growing camaraderie and relationship between them. I hope we get more scenes between Moon-Ho, Jung-hoo and Young Shin in the final two episodes, especially them sharing beers and Moon-ho relating childhood stories to them. I also liked that Myung-Hee and Young Shin have such an natural chemistry, even without knowing Myung-Hee knowing that Young Shin is her daughter. Nonetheless, I hope that Myung-Hee comes to know the truth next episode (oh my, we only have 2 more episodes!), so that we’ll have more time in the series to see her genuinely happy because she’s really been so miserable and downcast for most of the series.
What a ride it has been and we’re moving in nicely towards our finale with just the right amounts of delight, excitement and warmth.
While this was an action-packed episode with lots of good stuff happening plot-wise, there were also moments where the plot slowed down and lingered on beautiful moments of interactions between our characters.
The first was the meeting between Young Shin and Myung Hee. As she moves in to see Myung Hee, the camera follows Young Shin’s point of view, peering slowly over the corner as she sees the table full of sweet goodies – exactly as Moon Ho had told her. Young Shin takes in a breath and steels herself, because she knows this is not going to be easy. Gradually, her eyes move across the table and eventually sees Myung Hee wheeling herself towards the table to bring more cookies. As she sees Myung Hee face to face for the first time, Young Shin chokes up, holding back her tears, unable to say a word – the joy on her face is so evident, yet she has to restrain it. After Myung Hee takes her flowers, Young Shin tells Myung Hee how pretty she is – a line that’s delivered as a formal compliment from a journalist, but tinged with tenderness from a long-lost daughter. Myung Hee tells Young Shin she’s a big fan of hers. Young Shin smiles and can no longer hold back her tears and they start streaming down; it’s the proud affirmation and praise from a biological parent that she’s never had. The bittersweet irony of Myung Hee telling Young Shin that she finds her familiar, and that she also cries easily is a quiet moment of resonance between mother and daughter. It’s a really moving scene, performed so beautifully by the two actresses.
The next scene I really enjoyed was Jung Hoo and Young Shin’s exchange after she leaves Myung Hee’s house, particularly the moment when she asks him if she has killed someone before. She confesses to him that she has not asked about his past, because she’s afraid if she asks too much, he will no longer want to be with her. Jung Hoo looks at her assuringly and tells her, “I won’t”, still standing at a distance from her, respecting that she might still be afraid of him after what she last saw. She then looks at him and says what she’s always been wanting to ask – whether he has killed someone. There’s a brief pause after she asks, and the fear in her eyes is evident; even though she knows deep down he’s not a killer, there’s a fear in her that he might give an answer that will once again cause her to become distant. He shakes his head subtly and said “no”, and Young Shin’s demeanour becomes completely at ease and relaxed, saying to both him and herself, “I thought so”. It’s a moment played with such restraint, respect and regard for one another and it’s perfectly executed. It’s perfect also because Jung Hoo is dressed in his most commonly seen “Healer” disguise, yet laying bare his feelings and intentions to her, without any more pretense.
While the actors and actresses did give excellent performances in the above scenes, props must also be given to the production and directing team for constructing those sequences. There was such precision in selecting whether to focus on their faces or their hands, in framing their faces, and in choosing the right camera angles by pulling back further when there was a need to show the energy between the characters. The production team often doesn’t get praised for all the behind the scene work in editing and putting together these episodes, but certainly there was very thoughtful crafting being done here.
Besides the two powerful scenes above, we certainly got a lot of satisfactory backstory and plot progression in this episode. We finally learn from Myung Hee what happened back in 1992, that Moon Shik had called her to warn her that a group of men called “The Farmers” led by Elder were coming to get them and that she had to take Ji Ahn and run away. In running away from the men, she decided it was safest to hide her next to a rubbish cart, while she ran away and subsequently got into an accident. This is all told from Myung Hee’s perspective, but what continues to intrigue us as viewers is Moon Shik’s perspective, because we know that he certainly had a bigger role to play in what happened and he has not told her the full story. Nonetheless, this is sufficient because the focus of this episode is really on what exactly happened to Ji Ahn/Young Shin.
In the meantime, we see the gang of ‘good guys’ band together to declare war on Elder and this swings into high gear in the final half of the episode. It’s an incredibly fun, intelligent and humorous sequence as we start off with Minja, Jung Hoo, Young Shin and Moon-ho having a four way conversation through their head-sets. It was really cute to see that ‘girl power’ moment with Minja choosing to let Young Shin go on the mission, in spite of Moon-ho’s objections. Another cute moment was when Young Shin notices that cars are tailing them and says “very suspicious” with such seriousness. Jung-ho looks at her, with such pride in his eyes, and laughs to himself. I laughed out loud when Young Shin moved back into the video camera at the mortuary to wave to Minja. There are so many of these funny moments, throughout the entire sequence of the gang executing their plan to defeat Elder.
What’s even more impressive is that we even get some tender, heartwarming sequences in the midst of this plan. One of which is Moon-ho’s conversation with Min-jae in his office, where he shares with her that he has renewed meaning in his life, as he wakes up everyday and asks himself what he will do today and what ‘these kids’ will be doing. His tender, big-brotherly affection for Jung Hoo and Young Shin/Ji Ahn is very touching. (On a side-note, I somehow get a sense that Moon-ho and Min-jae will end up together in the end as the show is still not dropping her character and we keep getting these deep conversations between the two of them.) Another moment is Jung Hoo reminiscing about how Teacher used to bring him to the vault and also introducing Young Shin to his dad. It begins with Jung Hoo hilariously mimicking what Teacher used to say to him and then both of them bowing respectfully before his dad.
At the end of the episode, we see the sheer brilliance of the plan put together, which played on the strengths of every single character. They manage to secure the tape, which gets to Moon-ho just in time for his broadcast, which is also perfectly timed with Jung-hoo’s entry into Elder’s home that allows Minja to activate the camera in his glasses to send a live-feed from Elder’s residence through to the broadcast. The “good guys” certainly secured a big victory in this episode.
The big question remains of what will happen to Jung Hoo and Moon-Ho, now that they have trespassed on Elder’s territory and declared war in such a huge way. If what we know of Elder is true, he certainly must have had anticipated something and wouldn’t have consented to bringing Jung Hoo into his own residence so easily. The stakes have been raised as we move towards our grand finale and I’m certainly excited to see what unfolds next!
If I had to point out a key strength of Healer (which I seem to be doing every review so far), it would be its pacing – which is something that very, very few dramas do well. For many dramas, they either end up having too little plot to last for 16 episodes, such that they need to have “filler” episodes or repetitive plot-structures (e.g. Descendants of the Sun, Queen In-Hyun’s Man); or they have too many loose ends such that they have to rush through the plot towards the end. Even my other all-time favourite drama W Two Worlds suffered from weaknesses in pacing – I felt it went too fast in the first half and lost steam towards the end.
While Episode 15 wasn’t the strongest episode of the series, it pointed towards the masterful pacing of the series. In the midst of providing plenty of sweetness and cuteness (though I was surprised by the hints at pre-marital sex, rarely seen in k-dramas), the episode also moves forward the Moon-shik vs. Moon-ho storyline, while leveraging the progress in the relationship between Jung Hoo and Young Shin. The tone throughout was mostly light-hearted and fun with Jung Hoo and Moon-ho finally experience victory by implicating Moon-Shik in Teacher’s death. I really appreciated how the consequences and impact of Teacher’s death were so fully explored, with the previous episode extensively exploring the emotions felt by the characters and this episode focusing on the actions taken to avenge him, thus bringing the whole Teacher arc to a satisfying close. We see growth for both Jung Hoo and Moon-Ho, with Jung Hoo confronting the question of who he is and Moon-Ho no longer being a coward and declaring war on Moon-Shik. It was certainly entertaining to see Moon-Ho brilliantly orchestrate the whole news story with footage pulled together from different sources. Moon-Ho’s delivery as a news anchor is so eloquent and charismatic – it’s not hard to see why Young Shin idolised him.
Besides meaningful plot developments, this episode also had strong thematic coherence through exploring the theme of identity. Early in the episode, Jung Hoo asks Min-Ja, “But the real me? Who is that? Does that exist?”. While Min Ja dismisses the question, it’s certainly one worth exploring further. As Healer, his only interaction with the outside world was through a facade. When he decided to get closer to Young Shin, he made himself more visible through adopting the identity of the awkward, bumbling Bong Soo when interacting with her on personal level, but still revert to Healer when he needed to rescue her. Now that he’s revealed himself, he will need to find to reconcile both identities. While I’m sure many found the kissy/touchy scenes very sweet, the highlight of their interaction for me was the scene where Jung Hoo meets Young Shin and introduces himself as “Seo Jung Hoo” and apologises for taking so long to introduce himself to her. That felt to me like a significant step ahead for their relationship. When Young Shin says cheekily in the car that she misses Bong Soo, it’s a moment of ironic humour as we witness Jung Hoo being jealous of “himself”.
The sequence of Jung Hoo and Young Shin infiltrating the police station together was really good fun – Young Shin even gets her own earpiece! Detective Yoon and the entire police force unfortunately get the short end of the stick here, being portrayed as incompetent and gullible. However, I’m willing to overlook that for the scene where Young Shin gleefully and victoriously expresses how fun it was and Jung Hoo basks in the joy of being called her “boyfriend”. There were certainly some Bong Soo vibes there when he smiled to himself and kept repeating “boyfriend” in a silly manner. I really wonder how much Bong Soo represented the “real” Jung Hoo, since he seemed to play that role so well and for so long. Honestly, I do miss Bong Soo and hope we get to see more of the Bong-Soo side of Jung Hoo in subsequent episodes.
Besides Jung Hoo, the episode also explored the theme of identity through Moon-Shik. Every scene with Moon-Shik was so intriguing. While handling the cremation of Teacher, he looks genuinely grieved and we see him wiping his tears in the car. Given that he’s with Secretary Oh, who is his closest ally, there is no reason why he should be putting up any pretence, which makes me wonder if he was really responsible for Teacher’s death or whether it was Elder’s instructions. We learn through Moon-Ho that it sometimes seems like Moon-Shik believes he has done no wrong, as if he can’t remember what he has done. This is certainly true based on this episode, where we see him refer to Jung Hoo and Young Shin as “those kids”, taking it upon himself to help them socialise. He is genuinely convinced that he’s carrying out his responsibility to them. While Jung Hoo is on a mission to discover the “real” him, Moon-Shik has completely gone into self-denial by numbing himself from his evil acts and believing he is part of something greater. This is exactly what he tells Moon-ho too, that his side is united and will fight together for their survival. At the end of the episode, Young Shin enters his car and we wonder what devious plan he has up his sleeves. While Moon-shik is the villain of the series, he’s certainly being portrayed in also complex and compelling manner, which makes us want to know him more. The simmering tension between him as Myung-hee is also exciting to watch to watch and I am looking forward to their confrontation.
As we enter the last five episodes of the series, there’s so much to look forward to as the dynamics of the characters are gradually shifting and we have more people now entering the “good side” to battle Moon-Shik. War has certainly been declared and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds!
In this episode, the moment we’ve all been waiting for arrives. After sending Bong-so to hospital, Young Shin starts to put together the pieces and it dawns upon her that Bong So and Healer are the same person. Young Shin’s reaction to the truth is wonderfully played out in this episode as we get to see the complexity of emotions she feels.
Her first reaction upon seeing him wake up is a sense of disorientation – she doesn’t know how to relate to him anymore. Is she speaking to Bong So? Or is she now relating to Healer? In fact, Jung-Hoo also seems to be aware that she knows the truth as he nervously stumbles through an utterly unconvincing explanation of what happened. Yet as he leaves, her first question to him is whether he’ll be back tomorrow, holding back her tears until he leaves. It’s a scene with such beautiful restraint, and kudos to Park Min-young for her stellar performance.
Later on, we get another touching scene at home, where Young-Shin pours out her feelings to her dad and it’s a confusing mix of anger, fear and longing – anger that everything she’s felt so far may have been a lie yet still wanting to see Bong So/Healer again. We get a heartwarming moment of bonding as her dad recollects the moment where she came to him.
And that final scene in the cafe – OMG. My wife says I’m a sap and I gladly accept that, but that scene was so, so moving and Park Min-Young and Ji Chang Wook play the mix of emotions so well. Young Shin shares with him that she’s not angry, but she’s holding back – holding back from wanting to hold hands. Jung Hoo is shocked, as she goes on to say she wants to talk all night and kiss, all this with a longing smile on her face. Yet, she then turns the tables around and says she wants to do that with Healer. Jung Hoo looks at her, and seems like he’s going to say something, yet he can’t and then she puts her head on his shoulder and walks off, before he can even hug her. It’s heartbreaking to watch and I’m sure most viewers would have wanted Jung Hoo to just catch her hand again and the scene to end off with both of them kissing. However, the restraint, uncertainty and tension felt by both of them is even more beautiful and complex, and so in keeping with their characters thus far.
Jung Hoo may already be aware that Young Shin knows his identity, but he too is not ready to confirm his identity. He’s related to her behind a facade, whether as Bong So or Healer and to reveal his true self to her is something he’s not ready or even able to do at this point. Young Shin too might not be ready for him to do that – she would not know how to handle it and resolve her feelings for both Bong So and Healer. Both of them have never encountered such intense emotions before, particularly so for Jung Hoo and it’s great that the show is taking its time to explore how they confront their feelings to each other.
While Jung Hoo and Young Shin’s love story takes its time to develop, the surrounding storylines continue to unravel in a satisfying, exciting manner. I’ve never really felt much for Teacher, but he does get some good backstory and moments of victory in this episode, which ties our characters together nicely. His reaction to the poison was well-played out; upon realising his food was poisoned, he decides to no longer play a cat-and-mouse game with Detective Yoon and swiftly comes upfront with the truth. It seems a little convenient for Min Ja to be off her game in this instance and not spotting the suspicious person in time to save Teacher. Nonetheless, what happens to Teacher will certainly be a catalyst for Jung Hoo to take more action in pursuit of the truth regarding his dad and to take on Moon Shik.
I also liked that we see Jung Hoo gradually realising that he needs Moon Ho in order to confront Moon Shik. His usual gung-ho method of taking on a disguise, barging in and taking what he wants would not work, because there’s a more complex world of politics, power and deception at play here. This is a world that Jung Hoo has never dabbled in, given that he’s used to simply taking on one-off assignments and accomplishing the mission through the assistance of Min-Ja. As much as Jung Hoo wanted Moon-Ho to disappear from his life, he will eventually realises that he needs to work together and more interaction between both characters and eventual reconciliation is certainly something I am looking forward to, amongst many other things.
It’s certainly to the show’s credit that every storyline, relationship and character is developed so satisfying and I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Wow – if there’s such a thing as a perfect hour of television, this would be it. Where do I even begin? Words fail to convey how good this episode is, but I’ll try.
Within the span of one hour, we have emotional revelations, highly charged confrontations, growing affection, heartfelt conversations and suspenseful engagements. It’s beautiful to see how the show juggles all the different storylines as well as past and present so skilfully, bringing everything together so coherently and satisfyingly. I really love how the scenes concurrently advance several storylines, giving the show a good sense of energy and pace. For example, the early scene with Young Shin pitching to Moon-ho to explore the suicide of President Hwang builds on the storyline of her growing confidence as a reporter, yet also adds to the growing romance between Young-Shin and Healer and the narrative of Moon-ho protecting her from danger (both physical and emotional).
I really love how the interactions are so layered because we know one or more characters are hiding something from the other. Yet beyond the secrecy, there’s also something very raw and heartfelt about all the interactions. The most memorable ones in this episode were those between Myung-Hee and Jung-hoo and subsequently Jung-hoo and Moon-ho. Myung-Hee generally wears her heart on her sleeve and she’s never one for hiding her emotions and while she tries to act calm when Moon-shik first introduces her to Jung-hoo, she gradually breaks down once he goes straight for the jugular and asks about his father’s murder. It’s touching to see how she tries to hold herself together for Jung-hoo, but eventually can’t and goes into a panic attack. What’s also great is that while Jung-hoo is not told that Ji-Ahn is still alive, he pieces things together after seeing some photographs and the truth dawns upon him devastatingly.
I really, really enjoyed the interactions between Moon-ho and Jung-hoo in the previous episode, particularly at the junk yard, but this episode just takes it up several notches – big props to both actors for conveying their emotions so powerfully. Ji Chang Wook is really amazing in the confrontation scene, where he simultaneously displays bravado and vulnerability. While putting on a strong front, we see it crumbling as he holds back his tears and heart-breakingly tells Moon-ho not to interfere in his life with Ji-Ahn. There’s a mix of betrayal, anger, disappointment and pain in his portrayal. Yo Ji-tae also puts up an impressive performance and his face just tells it all. Moon-ho doesn’t fight back, even opening his arms to Jung-hoo, because he knows immediately what has happened. He has no satisfactory answer for Jung-hoo, yet he also knows that he has to do what’s necessary to protect both him and Young Shin/Ji Ahn.
And this leads us nicely to the scenes between Bong Soo and Young Shin, which are always so delightful and fun and provide us with much needed levity in the midst of a heavy-going episode. Loved so many things here – how Young Shin kicked Bong So away when he tries to go in for another hug, how she ridiculed him for his fear of bugs and said he’s not a man, her tricking him into touching his eyes and him pretending that her food is terrible. In the midst of these, we have a moment of affection where Young-Shin wipes the foam off Bong So’s mouth and also an all-too-familiar feeling when their hands brush against each other. Underlying all the romance is also Jung-Hoo’s realisation of who Young Shin really is and while him seeking her out is certainly because he likes her, it’s also about him seeking his past and attempting to be close to her because he knows she’s in possible danger.
I could go on and on about all the scenes in this episode, but I’ll just mention one final scene which was unexpectedly heartfelt and touching. While Jung-hoo’s pursuit of truth regarding his dad has left him even more pained, he finds comfort and parental love in Min-Ja, who is somewhat like a father-like figure to him – protecting him, managing his finances, giving him advice. It was so moving to hear him confess to her “I like Chae Young-Shin” and while she’s been trying her utmost best to keep them apart, she finally gives her stamp of approval the end of the episode and calls upon Young-Shin to rescue Jung-Hoo/Healer/Bong So.
In the midst of handling these big pieces, the episode still manages to advance the smaller storylines like Young Shin’s growing confidence as a journalist, the emerging reputation of Some Day, Detective Yoon’s pursuit of Healer and Moon-shik being nominated as the next mayoral candidate. I said I’ll stop talking about the scenes in the episode, but I certainly can’t end off the review without at least mentioning the interactions between Moon-Shik and Moon-Ho in this episode which were so intense. Moon-Ho displays such contempt for Moon-Shik, yet his contempt also leads to a sense of self-loathing as he realises he’s no better than Moon-Shik.
At the end of the episode, all the storylines have progressed signficantly yet we’re left intrigued by what’s going to happen next. Will Young Shin find out Healer’s true identity and more importantly, how will she respond when she realises that everyone’s been hiding the truth from her? What exactly happened to Myung-Hee and what role did Moon-shik have to play? How did Jung-Hoo’s father get accused of murder? What does Moon-ho mean when he says that Ji-Ahn/Young Shin will truly lose her mother if she realises the truth?
At the heart of it all, Healer is a masterful piece of storytelling. It does not rely on any gimmicks – no over-the-top action sequences (yes, I am thinking of the K2 here), no mind-blowing plot twists and no bewildering supernatural elements. What it does is simply tell the stories of three intertwined lives in such a competent, compelling and compassionate manner. No doubt, Healer is a show in a league of its own and this episode is a truly a classic.
While one can argue that the storylines of Jung-Hoo, Young-Shin and Moon-ho intertwine too neatly, the writing of this show is precisely so solid because it melds the stories of three lives and their histories so artfully and meaning. Their backstory centres around a photograph of five individuals and remains largely a mystery that is unveiled bit by bit, to add the right amount of understanding of present day events and emotional weight to our characters’ predicament.
At the mid way point of the series, we’ve had plenty of revelations and our characters have progressed significantly in their relationships but there is still a lot to keep us intrigued and engaged, especially now that Moon-ho has discovered the identity of Healer. The pacing of the series is top notch as it steadily advances the different storylines simultaneously within each episode.
It’s in its character work that the show truly excels too. We have three very fascinating, complex characters who are competent in their own fields, yet also display vulnerabilities arising from their past. The star of the show really is Yoo Ji-tae who plays the role of Moon-ho with such maturity, confidence and subtlety. In his professional role as a reporter, he’s suave, sharp and shrewd, yet when exploring the past, he displays much tender-heartedness and remorse, especially when relating to Myung-hee. His interactions with his brother Moon-Sik are layered and tense, a mixture of contempt, anger and mystery. Clearly Moon-Sik is the “villain” of the show, yet we are also privy to the guilt that entraps him as well as his entanglement with Elder from the past.
Ji Chang Wook and Park Min Young put up very strong performances too. Their romance is cute, quirky, fun to watch and ultimately convincing because they have also been given a lot of quality material to work with. Their romance functions as a natural extension of their own personal search for identity, family and ultimately a place in this world. After watching this show, I realise Ji Chang Wook has really been shortchanged in K2, where he plays an action hero who’s relatively straightforward in terms of characterisation and motivations. In this series, he arguably plays three roles – Bong-So, Healer and Jung Hoo and he switches amongst the roles with such aplomb it’s almost amazing. There are scenes where he switches between Bong-so and Healer “mode” and it’s all done through his eyes and facial expression.
In terms of the romance, we see it developing through the interplay of two sets of interactions between Young-Shin and Bong-So as well as her and Healer. With Bong-So, Young-Shin finds a confidant and someone whom she can just talk for hours with. With Healer, she finds a protector – someone who’s always watching out for her and will put himself in danger for her sake. The dual roles that Jung Hoo takes on also adds such an interesting dimension to their interactions, more so in recent episodes where we see him almost deciding to shed his “Healer” identity for a more public one. I really liked the scene where Bong So brought Young shin to his secret place on top of a building and confessed his feelings for her. His reaction to Young Shin’s rejection of him due to her feelings for Healer points to bigger decisions he needs to make. In that scene, he switches to “Healer” mode when he tells he can live as she wants to. It’s truly to the credit of the show that it can balance such weighty moments with light-hearted fun as the scene ends off with cute bantering between them as Young Shin asks Bong-So when he started liking her. I also liked their recent movie date “together”. While they are seated apart, there’s such connectedness between them and that holding of hands at the last moment was just beautiful. I like that Young shin does not go on a pursuit of Healer’s identity, but plays by his rules and respects his need to keep his identity a secret.
Besides getting all the big pieces done well, the show also handles the so-called smaller areas well. It has a fascinating ensemble of supporting cast, who are sufficiently fleshed out to make you care for them. My favorites have to be Min Ja and Teacher who are so quirky and entertaining to watch. Young-Shin’s father is also hilarious in how protective he is over Young-Shin. Another area would be the music for the series. I often find the music in Korea drama over-bearing and it’s almost as if they are on cue to tell you how you should be feeling in a particular scene. However, for Healer, this is not the case and most of the tunes are subtle enough to gently complement the emotions on screen.
As icing on the cake, watching this series also makes one feel happy and positive. I know that sounds trite, but it’s true! There are many solid dramas out there, but their viewing experience differs – some may be solid because they make you feel a sense of intrigue and suspense (e.g. Signal); others may you feel amazed and blow your mind because of the plot twists (e.g. W Two Worlds). However, for Healer, there’s such as bubbly, lively energy to the series that makes it so likeable and relatable. It’s such a joy to watch this show, which is really a huge plus point. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the series unfolds and from what I’ve seen so far, I’m confident it’s going to be great!