10 June 2013

TIME BETWEEN DOG AND WOLF REVIEW

KOREAN DRAMA REVIEW:  

I actually convinced Mr Pops to watch this one with me and as it was my birthday and he had previously promised we could watch whatever I wanted all weekend long with no complaints I was allowed to subject him to multiple episodes of Kdrama.
Mwha hahaha!



 As you can imagine I therefore picked my drama very very carefully,  not wanting to waste this golden opportunity wherein I could subject Mr Pops to the beautiful world of Korean Dramas and, dare I hope it, possibly even make him enjoy one.
Having read lots of good things about 'Time Between Dog and Wolf' I decided it might be the perfect drama for Mr Pops (not to mention for me.....Lee Jun Ki being in it and all) and then fantastically long after my birthday weekend had come and gone, Mr Pops was still watching this drama.
Success!



So I was a bit unsure about this one before I started, just because the only other pre-army Lee Jun Ki drama I had watched was 'Iljimae' in which he was well over the top with his acting. Although I still enjoyed him in that drama, I wasn't sure how pre-army Lee Jun Ki would pull off a serious thriller action type role exactly.
Obviously I worried for nothing, and anyone who says that Lee Jun Ki always overacted in his past career obviously hasn't seen him in this role, as not only was his performance reserved and thoughtful, I could feel the determination and frustration of his character boiling below the surface. Lee Jun Ki is fast becoming one of my all time favourite actors (along with Kang Dong-won obviously) not only for his acting abilities but also for his project choices and screen presence.

 As a character Soo-hyun is intriguing, his intense drive regarding his personal mission to avenge the death of his mother is truly enthralling and overall this drama is damn riveting.
So here goes....






The Start: (Childhood Portion)

This drama had me hooked right from the very beginning with the childhood portion set in Thailand. The whole first love thing can end up being a bit cheesy in dramas but I actually quite enjoyed this one as the kid's interactions were kept sweet and innocent, without too much preempting on the love that their characters will obviously share in the future. Their connection was established in a believable fresh way without too much unnecessary tragedy, playing more like slice of life snapshot of childhood innocence.
This fresh approach to the childhood romance storyline made it more understandable to me that their meeting then resonated throughout the years to their adulthood, because really the time they spent together playing was the last remnant of their innocence, as both children are harshly forced to grow up soon after, turning that period of their lives spent together into a precious memory to be cherished forever.

The set up for the future conflicts was also handled really well with the introduction of Ari's father, Mao, as the object of Soo-hyun's revenge as well as a source of ongoing uncertainty for our heroine. This crime boss of the Cheongbang gang works well as the villain of the piece, and I was relieved to find he was not portrayed as a cut and dry character with no depth or as being evil just for the sake of being evil as an object to drive the plot. In fact he is an interesting man who undeniably loves his daughter, a man who is at times terrifying and at others almost likable. Sometimes when I was watching the later scenes of this drama I even forgot that he was personally responsible for the murder of Soo-hyun's mother, so normal are his interactions with both his underlings and even Soo-hyun, with whom Mao forms a trusting relationship (as Kay at that point).

The first part of this drama starring the childhood leads is a wonderful set up, shot well in beautiful Thailand with an arresting narrative that builds its characters slowly, creating a really likable hero in Soo-hyun, a boy whose back story is fully developed and fleshed out, meaning his journey going forward is something I could really invest in.





The Other Start: (Grown up Leads)

This section of the drama kept me guessing in the absolute best of ways and every time I thought I had figured out the direction the storyline was heading there would be an unexpected directional shift, everything always staying fresh and  intriguing with no recycling of used ideas.

My first nice surprise was the now grown up character of Soo-Hyun, whom for some reason I had expected to have a louder and more womanising personality (pretty much like Min Gi's) which would then act as a misleading cover for his true hurt and vengeance filled core.
Instead he was thoughtful and quiet, hardworking and serious, a man who has never really expected to get revenge on the elusive gangster who murdered his mother, and is therefore getting on with his life in the best way that he can, training hard to be a NIS agent so he can at least do his bit against organised crime in South East Asia.

The second nice surprise was the refreshingly fast and complication free reunion between Soo-hyun and Ari, not drawn out with a million almost-meetings or misunderstandings (or the horror of Soo-hyun first meeting Ari again as the girlfriend of his brother, a direction I was slightly terrified it was heading at first). But no, their reunion was clean, fast and actually quite romantic, the way in which Soo-hyun stares at her with wonderment being a lovely testament to the special past they have shared. It was also devilishly fun to watch Min Gi's bewilderment at the situation, the girl he is trying to date (who is absolutely not interested at all) making massive moon eyes at his brother, not to mention the fact that his brother is making them right back at her. It is such a sweet romantic scene culminating for me in the conversation between them, with Soo-hyun saying he never thought he would see her again, to which Ari answers, 'I knew.'

Continuing on from that, I also felt that Ari as a character was an absolute success.
I mean, how do you keep a love interest likable and omo...interesting in the midst of a thriller/crime orientated drama such as this one whilst still keeping her as a normal woman, not a gangster, not a spy, just a woman with a (relatively) normal job and life?
In this case, the writers take extra care to keep Ari's character relevant, which I feel is no mean feat. They are able to make her sweet and kind without ever treading over the line into boring territory.  She is a no cookie cutter character either, she has as much depth as her male lead counterparts and is kept constantly likable throughout the drama in a way that makes you truly care for her emotional ups and downs, caused in large by Soo-hyun's amazing disappearing act and all serving to make it evident just how deep her love for him goes.

As a counterpoint to the sweet romance, we see Soo-hyun and Min Gi pass their exams and begin work as Agents for the NIS, Soo-hyun in the field and Min Gi as intelligence (or basically just paperwork). The first assignment given to Soo-hyun is the planting of a listening device at a restaurant that is hosting a meeting between the newly arrived from Thailand members of the Cheongbang Gang with an already established organised crime gang in Korea who the NIS are currently keeping an eye on.
The mission should be cut and dry with little or no risk and involves Soo-hyun and another agent posing as waiters to the gang members, but everything goes horribly wrong when Soo-hyun recognises the burned tattoo on Mao's arm, a sure giveaway that he has actually come face to face with his mother's murderer after all these years.

Lee Jun Ki handled this scene so incredibly well and I thought he was utterly arresting and engaging, keeping me on the edge of my seat as I watched Soo-hyun's emotionally raw reaction to this discovery. He barely gets through the initial meeting but then is so shaken and traumatised that he ends up a quivering ball of nerves, sweating and gasping on the dark corridor floor. And then when his fury takes over he abandons all semblance of the mission he was on and goes after Mao in full force, which really does not go well at all.
In fact, the whole mission ends in total disaster, Mao and his gang return to Thailand, and Soo-hyun ends up badly hurt and hospitalised, investigated by his work and then subsequently fired. 

I really truly loved this whole storyline because I had set myself up to watch a whole drama of spy espionage and infiltration by Soo-hyun in his position as a NIS agent but the drama turned my expectations around completely and gave me something entirely different. Something dare I say it, even better.

When Soo-hyun returns to Thailand on a revenge mission we get another unexpected turn in the plot, the terribly dangerous situation he manages to get himself into also doubling as a realisation that he is not capable of enacting his vengeance on his own without an organisation or agency backing him up, a realisation that I believe plays a strong part in his later decision to return to Thailand as an undercover agent.




The Middle:

Flash forward two years later and Soo-hyun has been declared dead in a car accident leaving his family and  Ari in deep grieving, all except his father who knows the truth about his undercover assignment.  In the last two years Ari has been holding onto her memory of Soo-hyun not yet ready to let go, and Min Gi has seemingly gotten even douchier, accusing everyone of liking Soo-hyun better than him (yeah that's cos he was better than you Min Gi!) and pressurising Ari into forgetting her dead love. So uncool dude!

Soo-hyun meanwhile has been having a totally shit time in Thailand, barely having advanced within the gang in the whole time he has been undercover and certainly not getting any closer to a face to face meeting with Mao. But eventually he gets his chance and manages to secure a position as Mao's right hand man, returning with the gang to Korea with a shiny new gangster mullet and sparkly earring as the gang attempts to extend their 'business' outside Thailand.

Things start to get very interesting here and Soo-hyun is a study of quiet rage and sadness at the terrible position he has found himself in, working day by day next to the man he hates most in the entire world as he tries to gather evidence against the gang. He is also obviously acutely aware of the life he has lost in his decision to declare himself dead and return to Thailand as an undercover NIS agent, evident in his sorrowful drive-bys past Ari who is now in a burgeoning relationship with Min Gi (why why why??).

And then we have the Amnesia. A plot device which honestly horrified me and almost caused my husband to abandon the drama.
But shock horror this amnesia storyline is actually quite interesting, leaving Soo-hyun not only truly believing he is a gang member but actually revelling in it. His personality and characteristics completely change and suddenly we have a cocky and uncaring gangster who finds joy in his position as most trusted right hand man of the big boss and all the perks that come with it. His whole demeanor shifts and the most gobsmacking part of the whole change is the moment he comes face to face with Ari again and, not recognising her at all, he throws her an easy smirk and almost leers at her as she looks on in stunned and overwhelmed silence.
I can't even imagine how horrifying that moment was for her, but it was certainly an effective way to illustrate the complete change of Soo-hyun into the character of Kay the gangster.

His complete lack of compassion at the death of his surrogate father during a botched mission also highlights this change (he doesn't know the man who died was his father but still...). It was actually a little scary for me to watch Kay being interrogated by the NIS agents after he is caught and arrested at the scene, his carefree smirks and complete easiness in the face of the situation almost hard to bear, but also so soooo good as a character development.

In fact I totally loved this whole plotline, which was such a surprise considering my initial reaction when the Amnesia idea was first introduced, my only issue with these scenes being that dumbass Min Gi doesn't even manage to recognise his own brother when they come face to face (come on Min Gi! What is wrong with you?).

This plotline also serves to solidify the big boss Mao's trust in Kay upon his return to the gang, wherein he is promoted to an even higher position over many of the other longer serving underlings. As Kay, Soo-hyun is pulled deeper and deeper into the gang lifestyle, and the scary thing is that this is what he now wants, his new reckless and dangerous personality as Kay making him the exact type of person he was originally fighting against.



Towards The End:

The thing I love most about this drama is its capability of constantly surprising me in the directions that it moves, always seeming to choose the one path for its plotting and characters that I never expected.
A great example of this is Soo-hyun's full and utter transformation into Kay and due to this, the way he now treats Ari as they are made to spend time together for a business venture. (Ari's adoptive father is forced into the venture by Mao, who in turn is forced to involve his family against his own wishes by the big bosses back in Thailand).

Watching Ari's confusion at Kay's behavior is quite heartbreaking as she so badly wants to see Soo-hyun in him, but she can't because he is truly a different person now with not an ounce of compassion or recognition for her.
Towards her, Kay is brash and unpredictable as well as being disarmingly charming and flirtatious to the point where I began to wonder if Kay himself was developing feelings for Ari. Or maybe his charming of the boss's daughter is just a calculated action and a bid to climb the gang's hierarchy and fulfill his own ambitions. After all, who better to leave your empire to then your trusted right hand man who is married to your daughter? This development is left ambiguous and open, which I really liked, and even now I am not really sure how low Kay was really willing to go.
But I am guessing it was pretty low....

Things between Ari and Min Gi meanwhile come to a complete stand still, as his obsession with catching Kay grows at the same time she is experiencing her irresistible pull towards the same man.
But Min Gi never really had a chance to be honest....just sayin.

Ari eventually realises that the joint business venture she is involved in is just a ploy by the gang to smuggle in drugs (well duh Ari!) and I interpertared her heartbroken reaction to this information as final realisation that Kay is not who she wants him to be, as Soo-hyun would have obviously never used her in such a way.
And so, having made the decision that they are in fact two different people, she finally tells Kay about Soo-hyun and how she felt seeing him back from the dead, but also that she has now realised the two men are nothing alike at all.
And so ends her fascination with Kay.

But this is when things get interesting (well more interesting), because the NIS Directer finally tries to wake Soo-hyun up by showing him evidence of his former life as a NIS agent (lord knows why they never bothered to do this before, except I suppose that the longer Soo-hyun believed he was Kay, the deeper he would sink into the gang culture, thus rising to his trusted position within the organisation and therefore making his true identity as a double agent all the more valuable).

Kay begins to believe the truth, faced as he is with such overwhelming evidence, and I think it was interesting to see how horrified he is at the prospect that he is not what he believed himself to be. Somehow I always imagined he would be relieved to find out the truth, but of course this would not really be the case. Kay is a real full person now, with opinions and ambitions, and by finding out he never really existed before the accident, it is almost like losing himself. As if the acceptance of the fact that Kay is not really his true identity means that Kay will actually die.
And in a way, I guess he will.

He approaches Ari at her work, shaking her violently as he screams about the watch that Soo-hyun gave her, and suddenly she is awash with doubts again. At this point I began to believe that Kay was waking up, that he would 'ping' back into being Soo-hyun immediately, so when Mao is forced to order a hit on Ari's adoptive father (due to his leaking information to the NIS) Kay immediately requests the job, even going so far as to beg to be allowed to take it on, presumably because he wants to protect Ari's family.

I was so sure that we were dealing with Soo-hyun again at this point but it is definitely Kay who arrives at Ari's dad's workplace at night and literally attempts to kill him, even getting off a few bullets into his arm. I was so utterly shocked and couldn't believe even Kay could have gone this far, again proving what an inscrutable enigma of a character he is. His choice here to murder Ari's dad, even after learning the truth about himself (and his past connection to Ari) just fascinates me, but it is at this point that an old memory finally resurfaces.

Ari arrives and throws herself in front of her father, in her panic her blood stained fingers reach out to Kay's gun slowly trying to force it back as she whimpers pleadingly at him. And suddenly Soo-hyun is a little boy again, holding his own hands out to protect his already dead mother from Mao.

His eyes widen and, as Ari would explain so eloquently to the NIS later, he 'seemed to be collapsing on the inside'. Such a perfect way to describe this scene where Soo-hyun awakens only to realise he has turned into the very person he hates most in the world.  It is horrifying to watch as he drives away in the night, having left his hit still alive as he runs away falling apart.  Crashing his car, he crawls out covered in blood and in complete agony as the memories scream around his head, forcing him to realise the full gravity of what he has done. Reaching for his gun he almost pulls the trigger against his own temple but the information Ajussi calls just in time.

The two meet and Soo-hyun screams at the older man, asking why they all left him behind. Do they know what terrible things he has done for Mao?  It is so truly heartbreaking and he collapses in tears onto the ground, shattered and broken.

Now the thing I like most about the return of Soo-hyun's memories is that he does not automatically revert back into Soo-hyun at all. I mean he is definitely more serious and thoughtful then Kay was but when he meets with the NIS Director Soo-hyun makes it very very clear that he is no longer some NIS puppet and that he will help them only because it also suits his own objectives, meaning they will proceed his way.  And he says all this with a dangerous grin and a mocking laugh, his nonchalance definitely a direct remnant of Kay's personality, making this new volatile Soo-hyun a little scary.

Ari meanwhile has been trying to get in contact with Soo-hyun for ages to no avail. When he returns to Korea after a quick trip to Thailand to get rid of all the Cheongbang big bosses (and yes this means Mao has taken over and yes it was Soo-hyun who kills them) she finally finds him, forcing him to come into a nearby restaurant to speak with her. Firstly she asks him if he was the one who shot her father and Soo-hyun doesn't deny it, but it seems Ari was already pretty sure this was the case.

I feel so sorry for her as she tries to get through to him, still believing in his goodness even after everything she has seen, but Soo-hyun is less than enthusiastic at her renewed belief about his identity. He is cruel and tries to warn her off but he says the wrong thing, mentioning the carved elephant that he gave her, a secret known only to Ari and Soo-hyun, telling her to forget the dead guy and stop coveting his things.
And now Ari knows for absolute sure, but she still can't understand why which makes it even worse.

Soo-hyun flees the restaurant the second he realises what he has given away but Ari follows him outside to where Min Gi is watching (because he is a snoop). Soo-hyun screams and terrifies her by forcing a violent kiss, pushing her against the wall as he asks if that is what she wants.
My heart just breaks for Ari as she is left all alone, watching him drive away.

Next up it is Min Gi who finally finds out the truth.  Not wanting to accept it at first he is eventually forced to after he is done punching Soo-hyun a million times in the face to get out his frustration. (At this point Mr Pops was yelling at the TV indignantly, telling Soo-hyun to hurry up and punch that doucheface back....He really hates Min Gi if you couldn't tell).



The End:


Things start getting a tiny bit less coherent towards the end unfortunately, though the plot on the whole still stays terse and riveting. The problem I have is that as we near the conclusion of the drama, some of the characters start making weird decisions which I can’t help but feel they wouldn’t really make if this was happening in real life. (Basically Min Gi suddenly becomes way more useful and Ari becomes way less so...sigh)  
Some of the things they did were just a little bit stupid, and yes I am talking about Ari saying Soo-hyun’s name in front of the Cheongbang gang members and also threatening to tell her dad he is an undercover agent. I understand she is distraught and all, but is she trying to get him killed?

These choices annoyed me a bit because it turned a really likable and sympathetic character into a bit of an idiot in the final act, something that I feel was totally unnecessary. If she was a real person and in love with Soo-hyun I am sure she would be doing everything she could to protect him, not making idle threats about revealing his identity, no matter how desperate she was.
This didn’t ruin anything for me exactly but it was a bit jarring, just another added issue on top of the already evident fact that the plot was starting to become a little bit messy, the drama even ending with a silly and over the top final scene. I do think the end idea could have worked, but still feel the execution was a little off. 
Still really good and interesting mind you, but just not quite what it could have been.

Soo-hyun and Min Gi manage to concoct a plan to legitimately explain why Soo-hyun didn’t kill his brother (which he told the gang he had done) and this works to throw the suspicion back off him within Cheongbang.  The only problem now is that Ari follows Soo-hyun to the scene, trying desperately to make contact with him now she knows the truth.  Min Gi manages to grab her before she can screw up their operation but to keep her quiet and stop her chasing Soo-hyun (and blowing his cover) he ends up telling her the truth.  Really she already knew, but it is still such a relief for her to finally be told Soo-hyun is truly alive and that she isn’t crazy. 

I feel really awful for her but this is when she starts getting a little bit thoughtless, and when Soo-hyun’s life is in danger from the Korean Cheongbang subordinates (who have set him up for a beating at their warehouse) Ari rushes to get involved.  To be fair she does save his life, turning up just in time and throwing herself over him.  Their reunion is quite lovely and affecting even considering the circumstances and it is obvious how amazed he is by the fact that she is absolutely and utterly willing to die to protect him. Being the Boss’s daughter and all she manages to get the gang members to back off.  

But then Ari does something really really stupid. She calls Kay by his real name, Soo-hyun.  She is overheard and this causes a huge shoot out as everyone tries to kill everyone else.  Luckily Min Gi shows up to help (see, useful!) and they all manage to survive, with only the one main gangster guy getting away. Ari clings onto Soo-hyun for dear life when it is over and Min Gi watches quietly as they stare meaningfully at each other, finally together again.

Meanwhile the rest of the Korean Cheongbang members involved in the betrayal decide to use that escaped main gangster guy to take the fall for their failed revenge mission, and so Soo-hyun’s secret is safe.  On top of that close shave, Mao also has no idea that his informant within  the NIS has been compromised and they decide to proceed with the huge international drug deal that they have planned, involving all of the huge crime syndicates around the world. This takes place at a party disguised as an art auction (which both Min Gi and Ari crash).

Through some well planned espionage Soo-hyun manages to steal information on the location of the Cheongbang manufacturing plant which he passes to the NIS who subsequently arrest everyone there (not sure why he didn’t already know about the location as I am pretty sure it was the exact same warehouse he was just bashed up in previously?).  Unfortunately Soo-hyun also attracts the attention of the estranged gang guy who is out for revenge, but he is saved by information Ahjussi who gets killed in the process.

The mission overall is a success and Cheongbang is taken down,  the crime syndicates losing their money but not receiving any of the promised goods…which makes them very very angry.  Mao and his main dudes escape though and Ari somehow also turns up to escape with them (along with Soo-hyun).  At a safe house they wait for their fake passports and Ari remembers the conversation she had in Thailand with Soo-hyun about him wanting revenge on the gangster who murdered his mother.  She guesses that it is her father (though Soo-hyun doesn’t admit it is true he also doesn’t refute it), and finally understands the reason why Soo-hyun has involved himself so deeply in this undercover mission all these years.  She knows what he wants to do, but she is also hoping that her presence will stop Soo-hyun from actually going through with it and killing her father.

Soo-hyun meanwhile is trying to get up the nerve to kill Mao and take his revenge but he is finding it harder than he ever suspected. Overhearing a sweet goodbye conversation between the crime boss and his daughter is the last straw and Soo-hyun finally backs down.  It is horrible to imagine what it would do to Ari if he did kill Mao and I am sure Soo-hyun is aware that if he does go through with it he can never be with Ari or have a normal life together, as how can she possibly accept him knowing what he has done.

This is a turning point for Soo-hyun and he finally makes his decision to let the past go and not let it destroy his future. He steals the USB that has all the money from the drug deal and sends it to the NIS, waking Ari up in the middle of the night and asking her to leave with him.  They escape to the (dead) Ahjussi’s restaurant and over dinner share a very sweet and romantic exchange as well as some sexy kissing, a lovely culmination of all the horror and grief they have gone through. 

My favourite moment of their reunion however is actually a short conversation where Soo-hyun tells Ari that it was in fact someone else who murdered his mother and not her father at all, such a beautifully compassionate gesture, a lie but a lie made in good faith to protect her, and even in a sense to protect Mao by letting him keep his standing in Ari's eyes.
But of course it could never be as easy as all that.
 

The USB was fake and it blows up in the NIS, (supposedly) killing the dumb boss guy. Soo-hyun gets a very scary call from Mao (who now knows he was betrayed), saying that if Soo-hyun doesn’t come back Mao will destroy everyone he ever loved. And I totally believe him.

Even though Mao is a douche it is still very clear how much this betrayal by Kay has affected him, to the point where he seems to be fairly aware that in meeting Kay he is probably heading towards his own death, but he still needs to go. Either way he needs to finish this and know the truth. 

When Soo-hyun arrives at the deserted warehouse he is thoroughly destroyed and bashed up by the tall bodyguard dude, though he does manage to get past him in to Mao eventually (after much pain and agony).
This final scene between Soo-hyun and Mao is very engrossing and emotionally raw as they scream at each other, Mao finally learning the truth about Soo-hyun’s identity.  A manic Soo-hyun is barely holding it together, but after much (really intense, hardcore) struggle they end up each holding a gun to the others head, in a dead lock. 

And this is when they lost me, because Mao suddenly sees Soo-hyun’s watch (the broken one given to him by his dad) and recognises it (seriously, who can even recognise a watch?).  He says he gave it to Soo-hyun’s dad when they were best mates before Mao realised he was an undercover agent. Mao didn’t know it at the time but when he was ordered to kill his first traitor it was actually Soo-hyun’s dad, an act he seems to have regretted and agonised over ever since.

This seemingly genuine regret is clearly meant to give Soo-hyun pause and make the viewer more sympathetic towards Mao, though I cannot for the life of me understand why?  Mao still killed Soo-hyun’s mother in cold blood, and in front of her child for that matter, so I just cannot feel that this new twist  particularly erases that existing brutal fact, or suddenly humanises him in any way just because he felt a little bit bad over a past killing. 
Soo-hyun doesn’t believe him anyway and continues to attack, but Mao suddenly drops his weapon and grabs Soo-hyun’s gun, aiming it at his own head as he slowly pulls the trigger.

Soo-hyun is shocked and horrified, and he slowly reaches down for a photograph which proves Mao’s story, though I still don’t understand how it changes anything even if he was telling the truth. And it is at this moment that the tall bodyguard guy turns up to shoot Soo-hyun, only to be shot in turn by Min Gi. 

Poor Min Gi is left standing alone before this scene of absolute carnage, dead bodies and blood, with Soo-hyun lying on his back riddled with bullets and his hand resting in Mao’s.

I suppose this is meant to illustrate that although Soo-hyun hated Mao more than anyone else, he also did spend a lot of time with him whilst undercover protecting him and possibly even almost respecting him in a strange way. This time together has created some sort of bond between them, leaving a deeper impression on Soo-hyun then he would have wished for.  

It is a sad ending in fact because no one wins, it certainly doesn’t make Soo-hyun any happier to have finally achieved his goal, because really he has lost Ari as a result of this mission and thus any chance of a normal or happy life with her. Mao may be dead but it was hardly satisfying for Soo-hyun to watch a man caught up in guilt take his own life, giving no one involved any sense of real closure.

The last scene is a flash forward to an unspecified future date. We see that Min Gi has a baby with the NIS girl who has been crushing on him forever and Ari is planning to head to Paris to study overseas. Then we see Soo-hyun who is totally not dead and is in fact being a super awesome undercover spy complete with asymmetrical new spy haircut and spiffy all black outfit (way to look inconspicuous Soo-hyun!).  He meets Min Gi at a cafĂ© (now promoted and acting as Soo-hyun’s handler) who asks him if he is fine to continue being a spy forever, being sent on one after another dangerous missions and never going home. 
Soo-hyun smiles and requests his next mission location be in Paris……where Ari is.
 

Thoughts:

Sooo…..my initial thought about that ending was, WTF drama!
But then I pondered it a bit more and started believing it was actually an appropriate ending for this show. Sure there is no real sense of closure, finality or fanservicey kiss scenes for us viewers to enjoy, but because the drama made the choice to end with Soo-hyun still alive there was really no other option they could have taken. Soo-hyun obviously couldn’t stay in Korea with Ari after all he had done and really what is there left for him except to keep on being an undercover agent, the only job he really knows how to do.  It is actually a bit sad for me just because I obviously wanted something better for Soo-hyun, a character that I have truly grown to love over the course of this drama, but I can see that this was the right ending for him in respects to the direction the drama wanted to head.  (Though to be absolutely honest the best ending would probably have been Soo-hyun dying, even though I would have totally hated that…but story wise I think it could have been the right way to go).

Also, the idea that we are left with,  Soo-hyun going forward to meet Ari again,  is sort of satisfying and sort of not.  I definitely like the sense of hope that they will meet again in the future and have a chance at being happy, but I am also unsure exactly how much more ‘he is dead…oh wait he is actually alive’ that Ari will be able to handle. Poor girl. Maybe she should have chosen Min Gi after all?

Ha ha, just kidding…Min Gi sucks.
















15 comments:

  1. I never understood how seemingly everyone else developed Second Lead Syndrome for Min Gi. Did they watch the same drama? He made his amnesiac drug-dealing brother look GOOD.

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  2. Love your review and agree that Soo-hyun-Kay-Soo-hyun was a truly fascinating character. I always thought that "Kay" was SH's dark side which he kept suppressed, and which "came out" and took over when he lost his memory. This could possibly explain why he became a mixture of both SH & Kay after he recovered his memories.

    I believe that Ari knows that SH is alive because of her final monologue about a boy on a journey to find out the true meaning of himself, she told Min-gi that she was going to the City of Spies and finally, she had the fully carved wooden elephant on her desk!

    This show is awesome!

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  3. Actually I think you're right about Ari, and I certainly much prefer it if she does know the truth and this time is choosing to go forward and meet him in Paris. I hope they have been in contact!!!

    And I like what you said about Kay being a part of Soo Hyun all along, just a darker hidden part. After what he has heen through in his life I'm not surprised he has some dark parts really, but I really like that explanation for why that part of his personality didn't wholly disappear even after he gets his memories back.
    It goes to show that if he had a slightly different upbringing to what he got in his adoptive family, Soo Hyun definitely had a darkness in him so could have easily become someone truly scary like Kay.
    What a great drama!!! :-) I love it!!!

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  4. Love Min Gi... he is obviously the real hero...

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  5. Hi, same anon as the first comment. I always thought Ari calling him Su Hyun in front of all those gangsters was a way to force his hand, since he wouldn't stop the mission. It wouldn't surprise me if Ari had a bit of a ruthless streak, since she IS Mao's daughter. :-)

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    1. Ooh, interesting theory! Dangerous way to do it though, but maybe she was getting desperate..... she had certainly already been waiting for him for a looooong time!!

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    2. I'm in the process of rewatching this drama now. I also noticed the way she handles Min Gi after he slams her into a wall (What a douche, seriously)--there's definitely steel under that silk, and possibly a willingness to fight dirty. Ari never struck me as stupid.

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    3. It is actually pretty great what a rewatch will reveal right? When I watch stuff again I can always understand the characters just a little bit better. I always really liked Ari and she is a really strong character, maybe not for physical fighting but she sure endures hell and remains tough as hell. I like the idea that there is steel there and I definitely agree!

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    4. LOL, she has to be tough to deal with all the stupid men in her life (excluding Seo Young Gil, who is not stupid at all).

      By the way, interesting theory on Kay using Ari for advancement. That never occurred to me while I was watching it, but now I can't stop considering that angle on my rewatch. I did notice him starting to get jealous of himself (that sounds weird) because Ari kept mentioning Soo Hyun so much, but I'm not sure what that says either way. I do think he cared for Ari in some way, though, because he hesitated before shooting Seo Young Gil even before his memories came back.

      So many angles...

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    5. Oh.it is so good right? I love that they don't make his motives clear, that at times you have to guess what he is up to and why, especially when he is Kay and interacting with Ari. I also think he stills feels something for her as Kay, but I also do feel he was using her a bit too, it is so layered and interesting because it is so hard to tell what his motives are exactly and it makes Kay such an interesting character!! I never thought an amnesia storyline could work so well!! Haha! :-)

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    6. Oh, definitely, this is definitely one of my favorite amnesia scenarios of all time. Shao Mi, Mao's mistress, seemed to think that Kay was using Ari for his own ends (but I have a hard time reading Shao Mi in general). I agree with you; I think he was using her, but he also cares. Also, I've always wondered if Mao was setting Kay and Ari up in hopes that if she got in a relationship with him, she'd spend more time with her dad. Maybe I'm delusional, though.

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    7. Hi SiameseMayhem!! :-)
      Mmmh thats an interesting theory! Mao certainly doesn't seem to want to let Ari go, so I guess it would benefit him if she was with Kay and pulled further into that world. I think Kay/Soo-hyun is such a facinating character and I kind of like that it is so difficult to read him! I love how smirky he gets as Kay, especially that first time Ari sees him again and he just sort of leers at her, not recognising her at all!! Gosh, poor girl!

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  6. i personally love lee joon gi in this drama , and they're were some things that i didnt get becasue the plot was going too fast but thanks to ur review it all makes sense now so thanks :) . and SOO HYUN RULES

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