Jirisan: Too Much?

Spoilers ahead.

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.

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