Happy Wednesday! Later this week I will have a review of the charming, funny show True Beauty. After that, due to limited time and energy and the need to focus on my own stories, I will be taking a break from blogging, at least until June. Thank you so much for reading. –Pixie
First off, I loved the 2021 Kdrama Jirisan. It was epic, exciting, awesome, and somewhat exhausting to watch. The direction was great from Lee Eung Bok, who has directed many popular dramas like Sweet Home, Mr. Sunshine, Goblin, and Descendants of the Sun. The shots were amazing, using lots of natural mountain/forest footage incorporated with CGI, green screen, and drone footage. The rescue scenes are harrowing and thrilling.
That brings me to the plot. Starring Gianna Jun (The Legend of the Blue Sea) and Ju Ji Hoon (Kingdom series), the story follows mountains rangers and rescuers who work in the Jirisan mountain range and mostly help rescue illegal hikers. But it doesn’t stop there, no. Rookie ranger Kang Hyun Jo (Ju Ji Hoon) has inexplicable visions of death on the mountain. There’s a hunt for a serial killer who has been killing on the mountain for a long time. There’s a mountain ghost. There’s a head spinning amount of flashbacks and back and forth time jumps along with a very large cast. Writer Kim Sun Hee is used to plots like this, having written the awesome Signal and also the Kingdom series which I have heard many good things about. However, at times, and by the end of the show it felt like perhaps it was all too much.
Many wonderful TV shows have lame endings, and Jirisan is no exception. While giving us a nice, emotional ending for a minor character that went on far too long, it spent almost no time with our leads and their story. I have to wonder if another episode was planned or asked for and denied. Who knows? In any case, the ending was fitting, but didn’t totally make sense. For example: The bad guy gets his comeuppance in the end, but it’s the easiest way possible, as the “mountain” kills him in a landslide. It’s fitting because he believed the mountain was telling him to kill people. But contrast that with all of the supernatural stuff going on, visions, ghosts, weird lights, it was very, very odd to have the main character keep asserting in the last episode that “it’s only a mountain.” None of the supernatural things were explained. As the rescue scenes and the mountain life of the rangers was very engaging, it may have been better just to stick with that. Maybe the serial killer hunt, ok, but beyond that? The supernatural stuff really had no point and it wasn’t written as a debate between belief vs. science or something like that. The flashbacks really weren’t too bad, but often were egregious attempts to fill the time.
Gianna Jun did well here with a very cold character contrasted with Ju Ji Hoon’s character’s warmth. All of the actors in the show did outstanding jobs with all of the physical activities involved in the ranger job and working with special effects, etc. They all seemed very believable as rangers. The ranger team was headed up by a captain played by Sung Dong Il (Reply 1997) who is my favorite “dad” character in Kdramas. The outstanding actor in the show was easily Oh Jung Se (Touch Your Heart). His character is a ranger who finally gets the love of his life. It’s cute. Then we find in a flashback he has a tragic loss. Oh, the heartbreak of this man! I just wanted to give him a hug. It was the most emotionally impactful scene I’ve seen in a while. His grief seemed so, so real.
As far as the soundtrack, I found it adequate to the story, but the cinematic atmosphere was what really carried the show.
On the whole I loved the show, but I wouldn’t call it a must watch. The complicated plot is interesting for writers. It’s also great to get a slice of mountain life and the lives of rescuers and rangers. The acting is great throughout and the mystery is intriguing. It’s just that the plot and writing got away from itself a bit and justice was served, but in perhaps the easiest way possible for the killer. And also for the other characters. Maybe as they had all gone through so much, that was better than a long, drawn out court proceeding. With all that, Jirisan is worth watching and levels above many other shows out there.
In watching this segment of the Stew Peters show last night, I agree very much with reporter Laura Logan. I, too, have less and less time and patience for people invested in the lies of our current news media, administration, and society. It’s become so refreshing to find someone, anyone, who wants to talk about the truth. Even those who at least can talk about both sides give me hope, even though they are still entertaining lies to consider themselves “fair” or something.
The US is an “empire of lies” just as Putin said. That’s the truth. The truth is Russia isn’t the bad guy in the war in Ukraine. Yes, they are invaders, but if you listen to Ms. Logan, she explains some very good reasons why Russia would invade that country. The propaganda against Russia these days is off the charts. The lying never stops and the ride never ends. Like she says, it’s basically avoidance theatre: Ooh! Look at Ukraine! Don’t look at the mountains of information now coming out about the many COVID and vaccine lies, don’t look at the mountains of information that not only was our 2020 election stolen, but many, many others as well. Don’t look at anything that actually may be relevant to your everyday life.
Happily, as I’ve said before, more and more people are waking up to the lies, sometimes I just wish more of the people in, say, my church community were. Maybe they do see the lies but are just afraid to talk about them. It is difficult to know who is a “friendly” these days, people safe to talk to about all of these so-called conspiracy theories that are really the truth. I fervently pray that the people living in the US can get back to living in the truth. Maybe then we can get better sleep, because keeping up with all the lies is exhausting.
Up hopefully in the next few days: Review of Kdrama Jirisan.
How glad I am that I didn’t give up on this show! Ok, let me back up a second, Doctor Prisoner, starring Namkoong Min is an excellent, over-the-top drama, but the plot quickly becomes repetitive. It is almost–almost–a fatal flaw. Thankfully the characters and incredible acting save it.
In South Korea they apparently have a law where a prisoner can get released for compassionate care. The prisoner has to have some awful disease that they are nearly dying of that the prison can’t treat, so they have to be moved to a hospital. In Doctor Prisoner this is the de facto way that rich and powerful people get out of prison. And doctor Na Yi Je (Namkoong Min) is the best at inventing diseases and helping the criminals get the compassionate release.
As I am still on a Namkoong Min binge, he is definitely why I wanted to watch this, but he is not why I stayed. Although this is a story about rooting out corruption, really it is about villains one upping each other. All of the “good” guys are villains in their own way. The few truly straight and narrow characters in the show are presented well, but blandly: This is not their show, not really. Sometimes it is just fun to watch villains be villains. We don’t have to try to understand why they are evil and give them sympathy. In fact, in this show they actually gain sympathy by their deviousness. Because they are outright evil, it is a joy to see them taken down. Not only that, but there’s an even greater joy as some are reformed.
The opening scene is hilarious as we watch Dr. Na Yi Je in action, meeting with a client in prison, and convincing her to practically kill herself to manifest evidence of an obscure, or even made up disease, to get released. Oh Jung Hee is a rich lady who has been imprisoned for hiring a contract killer on her husband’s mistress. Played by Kim Jung Nan (Tale of the Nine-Tailed), this character is the only woman on the show who’s a main player. She’s spicy, feisty, and awesome, and if one has to be an a woman of a certain age, hey, what a way to be! I absolutely love this actress and so want to be her. She also gets the best costumes here and in Tale of the Nine-Tailed–and her performance in that was great as well. A comparable American actress would probably be Meryl Streep. I can easily see Kim playing the “devil” in The Devil Wears Prada.
Oh Jung Hee also carries the romcom part of the story as she and prosecutor Jung Ui Sik fall for each other in hilarious fashion. Their story is way better than a serious romance with the lead character would have been. Jung Ui Sik is played by veteran drama actor Jang Hyun Sung (Leaves of the Red Sky), who plays a good villain.
But, back to Na Yi Je. Yes, he has a heartbreaking back story about how he turned out this way. By the end of the show, we don’t really care about that, we just want to see him take down more people and bend them to his will. In this cat and mouse game, this guy is always ten steps ahead, and boy, is it fun to watch. He enters into battle with the chief doctor of a famous prison (I can’t remember the name now), Sun Min Sik, played by Kim Byung Chul, who had a super creepy performance as the Wormtongue villain in Goblin.
Kim has so, so much fun here with this ladder climbing turd of a doctor, who wouldn’t recognize the Hippocratic Oath if it bashed him on the head. He uses “evil grin face” to full effect and is so ridiculous that after awhile one almost forgets he’s a villain. He’s an awful man who also has a great marriage: His wife is super supportive and it’s just great, great writing. Kim must have had so much fun playing this role. It’s just too bad he didn’t have a mustache to twirl.
After a few episodes with Na Yi Je and Sun Min Sik taking turns one upping each other, here’s where it gets repetitive, but if one can stick it out, it’s revealed that a different villain, an even worse one, is Na Yi Je’s real goal. It’s someone we’ve already met, the heir to a conglomerate, a chaebol character that frequently populates Kdramas: Lee Jae Joon played by Choi Won Young of Hello Monster (I Remember You) fame. Choi is awesome at playing a psycho, and although his character is necessarily scenery chomping, his physical acting is incredible to watch. An outstanding performance. By the end of the show, his character takes over almost everything. We, the viewers, are almost drawn in to his narcissism.
The best character, though, the best–and really this is a compliment to the writing–is Lee Jae Joon’s younger half-brother Lee Jae Huan, played by Park Sun Seok (Penthouse series). This is the first thing I’ve seen Park in and I hated his character. What an awful person! Jae Huan is essentially the first villain in the show, and for the first few episodes he seems like one of those characters that will get punished quickly and then the show will move on to someone else. It’s true that the show does move on, but Jae Huan stays, at first as a kind of comic relief as we get to see that prison life is hard for him. He’s so funny that we start to hate him less. Spoilers, spoilers! By the end of the show everyone is rooting for this guy! The writers do an amazing job of reforming this character and making him almost a good person. It’s awesome to watch and really makes the pay off with his brother at the end. It’s great writing because it was so unexpected.
Doctor Prisoner is Shakespearean in its scope and theatricality. The epic music almost never slows down, nor the pace. And yet fast pace continued can get dull. If you watch this and find yourself at that point, take a break and come back. The second half is worth it. Actor Namkoong Min holds the show being the solid, main character who is almost as villainous as the rest, but he’s just the ringmaster. Doctor Prisoner is a circus, a showcase of interlinked character pieces that I call: “The Best Villains!!”
A warning, if you ever want to go to the doctor again, this may not be the show for you, for the doctors in this are completely untrustworthy, especially and importantly our hero doctor Na Yi Je. They inject people with dangerous substances at an alarming rate and have an almost superhuman ability to manipulate the human body with drugs. Maybe the show is really just a commentary on our current medical industry? Literally the only tools they have are manmade drugs and surgery and in this show these things are the swords and spears of battle. It gives a patient real pause and concern.
The season of Lent is a time of reflection for the Christian, a chance to soberly analyze the cost of our redemption in Christ. God does not take sin lightly, and because of that, the only way to save us, the ones He loves, was to become our substitute and suffer the punishment in our place. God became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, His Son, lived a perfect life for us, and died on the cross for all of our sins–for the sins of the entire world since time began and until it will end. It is a marvelous mystery, a wonderful miracle that has a divine logic that humans can really only understand through faith. The substitute had to be both human and Divine to truly take our place and then to conquer sin, death, and the devil.
These days I find myself in the middle of so many stories, my own, of course, but also too many TV shows, too many books, and even too many writing projects. Reflecting on God’s Grace, and on Jesus’s death and sacrifice helps me to slow down, to remember what’s really important. Even current events, alarming as they may be sometimes, necessarily fade in comparison. In the end, only one story matters, and that is the history of this world, the story God put into motion when He created it and then implemented a plan to save it and also to eventually end it. Someday this, world, this universe, will not exist, but we still will, for we have eternal souls. The believers will be with God in heaven and the unbelievers will live in torment, abandoned by a just God who cannot tolerate sin, although in His loving patience it may sometimes seem like He does. How happy and how awful at the same time, but that is the story. More than that, it is the reality we face. Where one is going to spend eternity is the only thing that matters, for there is no going back, no changing things, no exceptions if you belong to a certain group.
Lent is a chance to ponder the weight of evil. Sin, death, and the devil, cannot and could not be defeated without the shedding of blood. Our Savior paid a dear, dear price. But in looking to Jesus, we can see love and hope; we can see our redemption. Yes, it came at a great cost, but it is ours to have, forever. And it was sealed with Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, signally our own rise from the dead someday. And so Lent is also a time of great joy, almost a painful joy, in a way. The story, the true story of our redemption is the greatest story ever told, and the world itself testifies to that story every single day. May your Lenten season be filled with serious reflection and also joy in your Savior Jesus Christ.