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Kdrama review: Devilish Joy

Wow. I wrote this a few days ago and totally forgot to push the “Publish” button! Argh. Well, happy reading. –Pixie

With a name like Devilish Joy, I was hoping that this Kdrama would be a fun, romantic ride. It definitely started out that way. Petite actress Joo Gi Beum (Song Ha Yoon) and hunky neurologist Gong Ma Sung (Choi Jin Hyuk) meet by chance on a visit to the Chinese island of Hainan and fall instantly in love. Their meeting was both naughty and magical, with a murder thrown in for extra intrigue, and I was set to experience, if nothing else, a thrilling story. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

I’ve actually been to Hainan. It’s a lot like Hawaii–beaches, flowers, boardwalk, jet skis. It’s the kind of place where if you sit alone on the beach someone’s bound to come talk to you, ask you out, try to kiss you, or at least give you a friendly wave. In Hainan you can set off fireworks on the beach, drink cheap beer, and instantly make friends with people you will never see again. Probably all such tropical tourist vacation spots are like this, but the island was a perfect setting for the first episode. It went downhill after that.

As far as the general story of Devilish Joy, it wasn’t bad, neither was the acting or production. The height difference of the main couple was fun. I am 5’3″ myself, and it’s amusing to see just how short one does like–almost like a child–compared to someone a lot bigger and taller. It’s easy to see why bigger and taller people might not take one very seriously at first. The biggest drawback of the drama was that it wasn’t ambitious enough. Everything stayed very safe and close to the tropes we are used to: The overbearing rich family, the spend happy nonserious heirs, the plucky heroine doing everything she can to raise money for a family that doesn’t help her much, and a hero with a memory problem. For me it was all just, meh. So meh that I didn’t even watch the last couple of episodes.

The two leads were ok, but it seemed like their characters didn’t really suit them. Choi Jin Hyuk is way better in bolder, more physical and more emotional roles. He was wasted as the neurosurgeon with memory loss and didn’t even need to stretch his wings. I’ve started to the watch the popular The Last Empress, and I think he’s going to be a lot better in that (also, only a few episodes in, it is a fantastic thriller that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Definitely a review coming in the future). As for Song Ha Yoon, if I’ve seen her in anything else, I don’t remember her. She’s a good actress, but doesn’t quite have that “it” factor that keeps one watching. Also her character seemed to change drastically from episode one to the other episodes that begin three years later. Obviously, the character has been through a lot, but I struggled believing that it was the same girl. Same for the lead male character. On top of that, despite their magical beginning, the leads really didn’t have much chemistry after Hainan, and I think that’s partly due to bad writing and partly due to miscasting. I think that someone like Li Min Ho of Boys over Flowers fame would have been a far better choice here, because even if his acting is sometimes awful, he has a magical star quality presence. He also knows how to look at a woman onscreen–really look at her in a romantic way that draws the audience in.

There were some interesting parts and characters, but mostly from the minor characters. The romance between the leads wasn’t half as interesting as that of Sung Ki Joon (Hoya) and Lee Ha Im (Lee Joo Yeon), who were both alternately annoying and fun to watch. Their banter could have been its own show and Lee Joo Yeon just looks like a star and has a solid screen prescence. Hoya, who I’ve only see in Reply 1997, isn’t my favorite actor, but it was great seeing him play an over-the-top pop idol wannabe. Then there were the villains, the extremely one-note aunt and mother Gong Jin Yang (Jeon Su Kyeong) and the intriguing Dr. Yoon (Kim Min Sang). Kim Min Sang is an awesome actor (see him in Tunnel) who, again, was totally wasted here, but he brought depth and character to his role and made the doctor intriguing to watch. The other notable minor character was Joo Sa Rang (Kim Ji Young), Gi Beum’s younger sister obsessed with makeup. Please get this actress her own show! She has talent and feistiness galore and I wanted to see more of her.

Devilish Joy, named after the main characters, was a show that never really lived up to its name and seemed to be just going through the motions to get to the end of the story rather than trying to emotionally impact or even entertain the audience. If the writing itself it bland, everything else is bound to be bland, too. Other Kdramas are better and more worth one’s time.

Kdrama review: Cheese in the Trap

I have now watched Cheese in the Trap starring Park Hae Jin and Kim Go Eun twice, and I will probably watch it again at some point. Based on a popular webtoon, Cheese has multilayered characters that are fun to come back to again and again, and a college setting that is almost 1980s in feel. Like most Kdramas, it is a romance involving a rich young man and a poor young woman; the difference in this story is that the affluence of the young man is almost an aside. It is certainly a reason why many try to take advantage of him or seek favors from him, but for once the problem between him and his young woman is something entirely different: a personality disorder.

Hong Seol (Kim Go Eun) is a college student who periodically takes time off to work and earn more money, especially if she doesn’t get a scholarship for the upcoming semester. However, in the first episode we quickly learn that this time Seol is thinking of taking time off specifically to avoid a sunbae (or senior) in her major. Yoo Jung (Park Hae Jin) has inexplicably gotten under her skin, and Seol is both intrigued by him and afraid of him. The reason for her very real fear only becomes completely clear by the end of the series: Yoo Jung has problems, but we, like him, are not sure they stem from himself or from the actions of those around him. It “takes two to tango” as they say, but most often if a person is repeating the same problems over and over, the root issue isn’t something outside of them. Cheese is largely about Yoo Jung realizing that he does actually have a problem, but it ends on a hopeful note that it is a problem that can be fixed.

Seol is almost an afterthought in this story. It’s not that she’s not her own person or is sort of a blank character, but she really is largely a vehicle to showcase Yoo Jung and to mirror him. Both students are smarter than average, and both have to continually deal with people trying to ride their coattails to success. Of those who have more, much more is expected. It’s frustrating, but it’s true. In fact, one of Seol’s business teachers points this out, and that duty Seol has is a lot more complicated than merely helping someone with their work or doing it for them–the teacher says that Seol is the type of person who can help those underachievers with less smarts be at their best. Yoo Jung gets similar advice from his father, the owner of a large company, but Yoo only belatedly understands what he’s been trying to say. The key, the very difficult key, for both characters to help others is for them to genuinely care about those others. Seol is mostly there, but she backtracks a bit after starting to date Yoo Jung, causing more difficulties. It is shown that by and large the other, almost insane characters, do care, but it is Seol, and especially Yoo Jung, who doesn’t.

I can’t say I really understood all this the first time watching Cheese in the Trap. Some stories are simply so layered that it requires multiple views or reads to really get the message, even if it’s being told or shown to you clearly. Also, this is a difficult thing to swallow: Other people, no matter how annoying they are to you, care about you. In fact, they may even be antagonizing you because they desire your love and attention. You are experiencing insane behavior and even hatred towards you, because you aren’t truly caring for others. That doesn’t mean that these other people don’t have a responsibility to behave well on their own–they do–but so, so often people do awful things as a reaction to another awful thing: heartlessness. Heartlessness from those wealthier, smarter, more beautiful, more capable and blessed with gifts and talents they neither asked for nor earned. And from those people, more is expected. If they don’t give you–a person of no talent, no riches, no beauty, a helping hand–who then will?

Let me give an example from the story. Yoo Jung’s father took in a couple of orphaned siblings when they were in elementary school. It is at first presumed that the father wanted to care for them and also thought Yoo Jung could use some siblings. This is somewhat true, however, it seems that the father actually thought that these siblings–Baek In Ho and Baek In Ha–could help his son turn out “normal.” And by normal, he means able to care for others, to be concerned for their feelings and well being. In flashbacks we see that at the beginning Yoo Jung didn’t have this problem: He did care for others and for these new siblings. But over time, perhaps because he thinks too much like his father, he became jaded and started to see everyone in his life as only people leeching off of him or trying to take advantage.

That in itself is not untrue. Plenty of people try to take advantage all the time. Baek In Ha (played by the amazing Lee Sung Kyung) is perhaps one of the most memorable Kdrama characters I’ve encountered. She is selfish to the point of insanity, shamelessly mooching off of Yoo Jung and his father, spending money like water, and refusing to work. She is also hilarious and charming, and it’s easy to see why so many people simply let her have her way. But In Ha is deeply damaged by past abandonment and abuse, as is her brother. Yoo Jung’s father may have given her food, nice clothes, and a roof over her head, but he did nothing to actually help her. She acts like an entitled welfare queen because that’s exactly what she is and she has never been disciplined or trained enough in order to reel herself back in to being a productive, self-reliant person. She is also sure that she will someday be abandoned. When Yoo Jung finally realizes the severe damage that he and his father have done to her by not enforcing boundaries and good behavior from a very age, nor seeking any sort of healing therapy for her, he decides the best course of action is to cut ties with her completely. This is ultimately what In Ha fears most, but it is necessary as their relationship is so, so toxic that it is making her act like a crazy person to the point that she physically harms others. After the final, clean break, we find that In Ha has given herself to another man who genuinely cares for her. Yes, she’s still a spoiled rich girl, but she is tempered by love, not only from her significant other, but love from her brother and a renewed relationship with him.

It was very belated, but Yoo Jung realized that the best way to care for In Ha was to let her go. No more relationship of punishment and reward or “carrot and stick,” which was really all they had. Early on she may have been someone he would have thought to marry, but that was shattered when he realized that In Ha and In Ho, too, were there simply to take advantage of him–at least, that’s what he believed. Despite her crazy ravings, In Ha cares for Yoo Jung. She often says she understands him, and there’s no reason to doubt that she does, but her damaged self too often thinks this means he owes her something. Indeed, he does owe her something, but it’s something he may never be able to give her: the love, attentions, and affections of a family member/brother/husband. He can’t give this to her and realizes it’s best for her to let her go. Yoo Jung also for once understands that a big part of the problem is himself. No matter how crazy In Ha is, Yoo Jung and his father have not done right by her, and some of her behavior stems from theirs towards her.

So what exactly is Yoo Jung’s problem? He is jaded and cynical about other people, but that’s fairly normal. What’s not normal is how he deals with others who have wronged him or are trying to use them. A., he assumes that’s what’s going on when sometimes circumstances are actually the opposite. B., he doesn’t directly question others about their motives or call them out in a healthy, confrontational manner. This is because he is only viewing them as inferior in some way, rather than as individuals with desires and needs, and who with a little care and attention would behave much, much better. C., he lives by the motto of an “eye for an eye,” but the way he goes about getting back at someone is entirely duplicitous, underhanded, and all too often for Seol, frightening. For example, instead of bringing a peeping tom to the cops so they can charge him, Yoo Jung beats him to a bloody pulp in a flurry of violence that leaves Seol not thanking him, but shrinking from him. Another example: He continually does things for Seol, like helping her get a scholarship, but gets others in trouble or blackmails others into making way for both him and Seol. This is how his father must act, though we don’t get to see a lot of his father, and it is sociopathic behavior where the ends justify any means.

Seol isn’t as fully realized as the other characters, namely Yoo Jung, In Ha, and In Ho. While the other three seem to grow during the series, she only grows in her appreciation and understanding for Yoo Jung, not for those around her. After college, in the office world, she still coming across similar people trying to take advantage of her or earn her favor. She seems resigned to them, wisely not upsetting them, but also not really seeing them as people, merely a type of person. At this point, Yoo Jung is working on himself and his perceptions of other people, and our hope, is that once he returns to shower his love on Seol (and others), that he will in turn help her see people as well.

The best success in the series that Seol has for caring for another person is the way she treats Baek In Ho. In Ho used to be Yoo Jung’s best friend, but that was all shattered by a misunderstanding in high school. For whatever reason, the two connect and become genuine friends. At time it seems as if he’s the perfect man for Seol, but we easily forget that he was abused and damaged along with his sister. Although he may have fallen for Seol, it is likely because she was the catalyst for him to finally start healing and moving on from the past. In Ho, played by the very handsome and charming Seo Kang Joon, gets a lot more screen time than Park Hae Jin’s Yoo Jung, but it’s actually a relief in some ways, because Yoo Jung becomes so abhorrent after awhile. It is only in the last episodes that Yoo Jung realizes that he himself really has a problem and that it has to stop. He only has this epiphany because Seol gets physically injured by In Ha. If that never happened, I shudder to think what would have happened with Seol totally in love with Yoo Jung and supporting and affirming his dangerous and damaging behavior against others. Cheese in the Trap, indeed.

An entire novel could be written about the philosophy and world view of this show, as it is truly fascinating. It is definitely not your typical show or story in any country. One of these days, I hope to read the webtoon and see how different it is from the show. I have also heard that the Korean movie, also starring Park Hae Jin, treats Yoo Jung a bit more kindly. All of the actors, but especially the four leads, did a stellar job, and the series as a whole is both nostalgic (again, with that 80s feel, and at times unsettling as it seems like a camp of psychotic vampires is permanently camped around Seol. Cheese in the Trap is at its heart a morality tale: Those who do not learn to deal with conflict and adversity in a timely, upfront, and loving manner are dooming themselves to continually spiralling conflicts and adversity all the days of their life. Those who do not truly take the time and effort to know and really see people will find themselves constantly seeing and expecting only the worst in people, and will find them–and themselves–acting accordingly. It is so easy to see how others must take responsibility for themselves and their actions, but how difficult to see the same in oneself.

House of Silk: book review

If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, I highly recommend House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. I am a little over halfway and am enjoying immensely–much, much more than his disappointing Moriarty. In fact, I am enjoying it so much that I want to go back and read all of Doyle’s original stories again, and the two Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey Jr., as well as the fun BBC Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch (still the best name ever). Holmes and Watson are simply the best detective duo ever written. Although I adore Agatha Christie’s Poirot, there’s something about these two characters. They are such men of action and really funny as well. House of Silk has a seal of approve from the Conan Doyle Estate, so Horowitz is certainly on the right track with this tale as far as they are concerned. Can’t wait to see how the story turns out.

Additional review: Kdrama Encounter (Boyfriend) is a unique Noona (older woman, younger man) romance starting out in Cuba of all places, and then, of course continuing back in Seoul. Not sure what to make of all these Noona romances they seem to be making lately. Here, Park Bo Gum’s Jin Hyeok is very sweet and naive, but is supposed to be twenty-nine or thirty, and because the actor himself is only twenty-five or so, he just comes across as very young. Add to that Jin Hyeok’s place as–shall we say not a chaebol (rich elite)–and you have a recipe for him simply bringing his older lady love (played by the beautiful Song Hye Kyo) more stress and trouble than she has already, as she will have to protect him continually. Now, the writers probably have something in store for him or the couple together to outwit the bad guys, but so far I’m skeptical. Loved the Cuba setting, though, and kinda hope they escape back there or something.

Happy reading and watching! –Pixie

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes: Ep. 16 Review (final)

It has taken me so long to final getting around to writing this review, because this ending is just so sad, that I just didn’t know if I’d have anything positive to say.  After thinking it over, though, the show has a lot of positive aspects. 

Let’s start with the bad: Yes, Moo Young and Jin Kang are indeed star-crossed lovers and both die at the end. Episode 16 was largely just a continual fall from the climax of the revelations in episode 15. We don’t learn a lot that we didn’t know before, and the episode felt a half hour too long. Poor Moo Young just never had a chance. He, thankfully, finds out from Officer Yoo that, no, Jin Kang is not his sister, but now he’s messed everything up by murdering CEO Jang. Moo Young’s focus, now, is making sure Jin Kang can live happily (without him), and then he’ll go off into the woods and shoot himself. 

Jin Kang snaps Moo Young out of this by confronting him and telling him she’ll shoot herself instead, as she can’t live without him. This sentiment is a bit more normal with teenagers (i.e. Romeo and Juliet), and it’s a bit hard to believe it’s coming from the almost thirty year old, Jin Kang.  I mean Moo Young has his appeal, certainly, but it just seems a bit much. To both Moo Young’s and the audience’s relief, Jin Kang is just testing him and she gets him to admit that he really doesn’t want to die, either. He wants to live. For her. Aww. 

The tragedy comes in the form of the secretary who works for the Jang company–now it’s the President or Papa Jang who’s the CEO and he’s enraged that both of his children are now dead, both due to Moo Young–and is on an assassination mission. President Jang has deemed that Moo Young must die, and so the secretary shows up at the house in the woods where Moo Young and Jin Kang have just decided that they both want to live for each other and promptly kills them both. Jin Kang gets shot first as she tries to protect Moo Young with her body, much like he did when they were kids and drenched in boiling hot water from a kettle. 

Two minutes too late, Officer Yoo shows up and finds the both of them dead by gunshot. He wails with grief, specifically over Jin Kang. One wonders what he’s thinking, if his detective skills can analyze the evidence showing that someone else shot them, or if he’s figuring Moo Young shot them both or maybe that they shot each other? In any case, it’s going to take Officer Yoo the rest of his life to get over the guilt he will surely feel over this tragedy that had EVERYTHING to do with him.

Now, the positive. Despite the troubling events of the plot, the story was generally told in a positive, sunny way. It wasn’t overly pessimistic and depressing. If it had been an American show, cynicism would have permeated everything, especially the romance. Not so here. We get a pure romance. We get a man on a journey to redemption through the love of a good woman. The acting from all three leads, but especially Seo In Guk and Jung So Min was outstanding, and their chemistry was off the charts. They became their characters so much I forgot about the actors, and that’s a good thing. There’s no inkling of any of their other characters in Moo Young and Jin Kang, either. If that’s not talent, I don’t know what is. 

On to cults. I am a Christian and I really don’t understand how there are so many cults based on Christianity and that people fall for them continually. There are probably many cults that are tangentially connected to other religions, but the cults represented most often in movies and television have a Christian base. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes is a warning to those who fall for false prophets. In episode 16 we find out that Jung So Min’s parents convinced Moo Young’s mother to take her son, leave her husband and join the cult. We find that Moo Young remembered Jin Kang as a little sister because he had to care for her. Their parents did not remember to feed them as they were too busy praying, babbling away feverishly as if God, or whomever they were praying to, would hear them due to their many words. Moo Young’s father took an axe to all three of these people. We don’t have a lot of information on the cult, but it seemed to have made everyone rather insane. What the two families were like before the cult (were they happy and sound in mind and body?) is also information we don’t have, but in Moo Young’s family his father must have been absent enough for his mother to become brainwashed and leave without his knowledge. We now have an explanation for why Moo Young held himself aloft from religion, even at the Catholic orphanage where he grew up. He somehow knew that religion can sometimes be dangerous and went the opposite direction of his mother, thinking God must not really exist. 

Jin Kang and Moo Young have a lot of conversations throughout the show on what it means to be a good person. With the truth revealed, we find that Moo Young does fit the show’s definition: a good person has a lot of love. Moo Young had a lot of love as a child for his parents and especially for Jin Kang, but, due to tragedy he just didn’t remember. Although Jin Kang is a good person with love as well, partway through the show, she ceased to be an adult for me, especially as the other characters treated her like the child they remembered her as. She was the one everyone catered to and took care of, and not really allowed to grow up. Only at the end, putting a gun to her own head did she seem to be her own agent, and yet she did it claiming that she couldn’t live without Moo Young. This statement was part ruse, but partly the truth. In considering cults and the history of their parents, I have to wonder if the two had lived if their love would have become a cult unto itself: a two-person cult in which no other person would matter. Some romantic love can be too much, the pair can be too desperate for each other, each person too unable to do things on their own. Our partner shouldn’t be our god, but people can make idols out of anything.

The true tragedy of this show, though, is Officer Yoo. On the one hand he has a good, but very sensitive heart. This sensitive heart led him to conceal much information that would have been far better off in sunlight. He held secrets that weren’t really his in order to keep Jin Kang safe, but she herself would have rather lived with the truth. His protective love smothered her and indirectly caused her death, and certainly caused much mental and emotional stress for both Moo Young and Jin Kang by the end. Officer Yoo also took on guilt unnecessarily. He was unable to accept that it wasn’t his fault he had to shoot Moo Young’s dad, and he let that shadow hang over him for twenty-five years. Fortunately, this show has a few Christian elements which make it shine, and one of those is forgiveness.

In his last will and testament, Moo Young writes to Officer Yoo that he forgives him and holds no ill will against him. He also writes, “If being heartless is being a devil, then I was a devil, like you said.” Moo Young admits to largely seeing people from a distance as if everything were a game. He urges Officer Yoo to let his guilt go and says that he has found peace with the love of Jin Kang. Once Officer Yoo gets over the shock of both their deaths, I have to hope Moo Young’s letter will comfort him much in the years to come. There is no better miracle than the power of forgiveness. Maybe Officer Yoo will finally find extra room in his heart for, say, Deputy Tak. 

Wrapping up, I liked the show as a whole. It was shot, directed, and written more like a movie than a Kdrama, and so it’s little unique because of that. The cinematography is amazing, every shot a joy to look at. I had hoped we’d get a bit more murder mystery and cat and mouse games, but it wasn’t to be. I wish they hadn’t dropped Moo Young’s photographic memory, as it was a cool device. And the bracelet that Moo Young gave the Damsel. I was certain we were going to find out that was Jin Kang’s bracelet as a child or something. Oh well. The romance really ended up taking over most everything. The minor characters did well with what little screen time they had. The big relief, was, of course, that the leads were not siblings, and Moo Young got his wish that Jin Kang would never know of the mistake he made in that regard. 

This show was such an emotional roller coaster, I don’t if I’ll ever watch it again. If I do, it would be largely due to the great acting by the leads, but even with that, I don’t know if I’d make it to the end a second time. The beauty of Moo Young’s breakdown in episode 15 was the high point, and probably the most heartbreaking scene in the show. In episode 1 we are introduced to three seemingly healthy and relatively happy people, but by the end, we know that they are all tortured souls unable to escape from the past and unable to avoid their fate. I think the fate thing is what turns me off about tragedies as a genre. As a Christian, I don’t believe in fate and I think that God always gives us a way out, that we can always choose to face the truth, not kill people, and not kill ourselves. The big winner in this show is Tattoo girl, Im Yoo Ri. She turned herself in and is serving the time for her crime. She will not live like Officer Yoo in mental torture, and as she’s trying to get off her meds, will not live like Moo Young, plagued by what she does not know. The last scene of her in the show as she’s talking to Jin Kang really showcases the quite beautiful tattoo on her neck. Im Yoo Ri will be ok, and Officer Yoo and the doctor will likely continue to visit her, giving her friends, comfort, and hope.

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes: Ep 15 Review

This story is breaking my heart, but then, that’s what good stories sometimes do.  Kim Moo Young’s memories of his little sister, Jin Kang, coming rushing to him. Instead of returning to her with the medicine for her burn, he runs all the way to CEO Jang’s house, demanding for her to tell him all that she knows.  Jang tells him she can see the truth of it in his eyes: he didn’t have a little brother, but a sister, a sister that Officer Yoo’s family adopted: Jin Kang. 

Moo young leaves, devastated. Seo In Guk pulls out all of his acting stops as the young man feels the full impact of the information. As he breaks down crying, the beautiful music is strangely upbeat, hopeful, almost. Moo Young is buckets of tears and definitely has his emotions back. This information seem as if it will break him completely.

When at last Moo Young returns to a concerned Jin Kang, he asks her for his keys back and breaks up with her. This is the Moo Young of the Damsel days, and he even mentions her, that he’s dropping Jin Kang just like he dropped the Damsel. Jin Kang believes he is lying and asks to know what is wrong. Like any man on a mission to protect someone he loves, Moo Young doesn’t budge and Jin Kang leaves in distress. (Why is it that so often liars look one straight in the eye when lying? They don’t look all over the room–some liars do that, but the best ones don’t.) Quickly, Moo Young gets to work at ridding his house of everything related to her. 

The next day Moo Young goes straight away to CEO Jang to reaccept her offer to manage the nightclub Angel’s Tear. She seems delighted and intrigued by this, even telling her assistant that she has found a trump card to use against Moo Young: Jin Kang is his sister. Originally, the CEO just made that up for kicks, but she says the look in Moo Young’s eyes confirmed it. Argh! So, is she his sister or not? Moo Young’s memories seem to seal the deal, but the show makers are obviously playing with this. Whether or not Jin Kang actually is his biological sister, that is now what Moo Young believes. 

When Moo Young returns home he find Jin Kang waiting there. She has been waiting all day and is freezing. Forgetting himself, Moo Young almost pulls off his coat to drop over her, but quickly remembers. She pleads with him to tell her what’s wrong, but he pull his arm away, goes inside, and slams the door. Like a desperate, little child, Jin Kang bangs on the door, continually pleading with him as he sits on the couch and covers his ears. It’s a heart-wrenching, pathetic scene and when Moo Young can’t take any more of her crying, he calls Officer Yoo to come take his sister home. Officer Yoo immediately complies and piggybacks a despondent Jin Kang home. It’s no surprise the next day Officer Yoo is visiting the pharmacy for cold medicine for her. 

Officer Yoo crosses paths with Moo Young and tells him he did a good job breaking up with Jin Kang. Moo Young tells the officer it wasn’t because of him, it was that he just got tired of Jin Kang. Not sure if Officer Yoo believes that, but I think he’s just relieved and probably isn’t going to analyze it too much. Later, Officer Yoo is surprised to find that Jin Kang has Moo Young’s childhood drawing in her possession. He remembers clearly finding it on the day he killed Moo Young’s father.  At that time, he took it and slipped it in Moo Young’s gown at the hospital, thinking the kid maybe would want to save that last image of a happy family. He remembers visiting not only Moo Young in the hospital, but also Jin Kang. 

CEO Jang is busy securing Moo Young as her pet. She’s given him a new job, new clothes, and now a new car. Moo Young accepts the keys and she asks him, why not get a new house, too? He replies that he should at least keep his real house, right? 

“Does that mean everything else is fake?” she scoffs.

“Don’t you have those times, too, when are more desperate for the fake?” he says.

After Jin Kang recovers from her cold, she’s still not quite her happy self, but she refuses to think bad of Moo Young. She knows she just doesn’t have all the information yet. Moo Young is looking like he’s going to break his vow of staying away from her as he keeps tabs on her to make sure she’s really okay. Jin Kang calls up Deputy Tak for a meeting and finds out from her that Officer Yoo killed Moo Young’s axe murder father. For some reason I thought that Jin Kang knew this information, but with shows like this, it’s sometimes hard to keep up. In exchange, Tak finds out that Jin Kang knows she’s not really Officer Yoo’s sister. 

Jin Kang visits Moo Young at Angel’s Tear as well, but he refuses to talk alone with her, and CEO Jang stresses him out by acting like she’s going to spill the fact that he and Jin Kang are brother and sister at any moment. Not surprisingly, then, when he drives Jang home later that night, he agrees to go up to her apartment in the hope of finding out what she has already told Jin Kang. Oblivious as perhaps only a super wealthy person can be, CEO Jang pushes all of Moo Young’s buttons that she can. Moo Young asks her if she has any intention of stopping and she laughs and asks him if he wants to stop the game.

“This isn’t a game.” Moo Young is incredulous, and in that moment we as the audience can tell that although the two do have similarities, they really are nothing alike in substance. Moo Young has the clear capacity for good and for love. Moo Young decides this game is definitely over, turning in his car keys to the CEO, bidding her goodbye, and telling her not to mess with him. But Jang just can’t give it up and keeps taunting him, threatening him that she’ll tell Jin Kang everything. As she sees his expression, she says she can’t believe it. He really loves Jin Kang. CEO Jang is obviously jealous, but why she would want a man supposedly in love with his sister…well, these characters all have their problems. Power is the most important thing to her, I think, even more important than self-preservation. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that her words are sparking a cold rage in Moo Young, she doesn’t even stopping talking and taunting as he goes to the bureau where she placed the gun he borrowed earlier, pulls it out, and shoots her three times. Maybe Jang secretly wanted to die, to have her endless games ended.  Who knows? In any case, Moo Young is now definitely a murderer. 

The news of the murder breaks quickly, especially as Moo Young has been caught on camera, though has eluded capture. Jin Kang is devastated yet again and convinced he is innocent. Officer Yoo is less sure and even though Deputy Tak cautions him that Moo Young is wandering around with a gun and will probably shoot him next, Yoo isn’t worried about his own safety. He readily goes to meet Moo Young at the temple when Moo Young calls. 

Generally, episode 15 was a downer, but this show is a tragedy. It seems more and more likely that Moo Young will end up dead somehow, and there will likely be some kind of big reveal at the end, making things even worse. Tragedies always seem to me like the writers needlessly torturing their characters. Isn’t there something sadistic about that? Anyhow, it’s definitely an emotional roller coaster. Maybe Officer Yoo will somehow save the day.

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes: Ep. 14 Review

In this episode the audience finally gets the news we’ve been waiting for. Are we to be grossed out by brother-sister love or not? I was hoping for a thrilling cat and mouse game, and it started that way, but The Smile Has Left Your Eyes is now more a series of character pieces, Kim Moo Young being the primary one. The writer and director are going for profound more than anything else. Is it possible to survive one’s past, to separate from it completely and be a new person?

Moo Young doesn’t shoot Officer Yoo. He asks the detective, “so you knew who I was, right? Is that why you hated me so much?” He also demands to know why Yoo killed his father, but Yoo won’t give a reason (he later says it was an accident). “People like you are the most repulsive,” Moo Young says. He remembers his dad as loving and smiling and struggles with there being no apparent reason he was shot.

They are interrupted by Deputy Tak at the door and she’s shocked to find Moo Young in the Yoo house and freaks out even more after she finds out Moo Young had a gun aimed at Officer Yoo and even shot out his flowerpot.

Ever helpful, CEO Jang sends Moo Young an article about his father and Moo Young gets a sudden, shocking education about his family. It seems his mother was involved in some kind of cult and his father was upset by it and murdered her and two others with an axe. Moo Young is the son of a killer and things are clicking into place for him especially Officer’s Yoo’s attitude. Seo In Guk does a masterful job portraying a nonemotional man who finds his emotions suddenly pouring back in. Although the truth is ugly, knowing it will likely be the first steps of Moo Young’s ability to finally heal.

He doesn’t run to Jin Kang for comfort, but to the psychiatrist, basically asking, “Dude, why didn’t you stop me?” Moo Young is also fixated on how Officer Yoo views him: as a devil. Instead of saying “I told you so,” the doctor reveals that he, too, is the son of a murderer, and he was hoping in letting Moo Young leave the hospital as a child that he might escape ever knowing that about himself. The doctor says it’s only now that he’s older that he understands that the sins of the father are the father’s, not the child’s to bear. He tells Moo Young that his past doesn’t define him. The present is what makes him. The doctor implores him not to let this knowledge hurt him or anyone else.

Meanwhile, CEO Jang is still on the hunt for information and brings in Officer Yoo’s old teammate, the current leader of the detective team, for questioning. She gives the recording of the interview to Moo Young and also offers to take out Officer Yoo for him. Moo Young says not to harm a hair on Yoo’s head and for the second time states that he can’t believe Jang thinks that he and her are the same kind of people.

Moo Young now has both his mother and father’s names. After listening to the recording he calls out Officer Yoo for a talk. He is wondering why Officer Yoo was looking for him as a child. Who would care about the son of a murderer? Officer Yoo says it was that he killed his father and lost him at the scene. He is surprised to learn that Moo Young now knows what his father did. Even though Yoo was justified in shooting Moo Young’s dad, he still feels bad because he took a life. Moo Young’s father was trying to hide the bloody axe from his son’s sight when Officer Yoo felt he had no choice but to shoot the armed, still dangerous man.  Moo Young tells Officer Yoo that he wishes he hadn’t looked for him because he grew up thinking his dad was good, that his dad was a police officer.

“Don’t mistake me not shooting you for forgiving you. I’ll never forgive you,” Moo Young says, sounding like his old self. Officer Yoo responds by telling him the temple where he can visit his dead parents.

Despite talking like he won’t go, Moo Young does eventually go to the temple and cry over his parents. Thoroughly over revenge, he brings CEO Jang back the gun. She says she’s disappointed he brought it back and he can borrow it again whenever he wants. She also has news about his younger brother’s whereabouts.

“There is no younger brother,” she tells him. Through a flashback, we learn she has discovered that it wasn’t a younger brother, but a younger sister who was adopted by Officer Yoo’s mother. Jin Kang is Moo Young’s sister. Since Moo Young’s not treating her particularly nice, however, the CEO is in the mood to make him wait for the information and gives him a job to do first.

Moo Young comes back to a restless Jin Kang, to whom he has finally told the truth about his axe murderer father.

“Are you really ok with me as I am?” Moo Young asks her. Jin Kang’s answer is “of course,” and to give him a hug. This girl truly does have hope and believes in redemption and goodness. Following an underlying biblical theme of the show, Moo Young says that he wants to be born again. It seems that he may really be on the way to healing and peace. Jin Kang says he needs love, home, family, and ramen! So much cuteness with this couple.

They stand in sleeveless shirts in front of the mirror, Moo Young hugging Jin Kang from above, and they marvel how their burn scars are so similar. Jin Kang even calls it a map. As the audience, we perhaps guess that Moo Young tried to protect his sister from the boiling kettle as it fell and that’s why their scars look as if they could be joined.  But it’s frustrating that for fairly smart characters they never once consider the possibility that their accidents are not two different accidents, but the same accident.

Fate refuses to leave them in the dark any longer. When heating water in a kettle, probably for more ramen, Jin Kang gets burned. Moo Young rushes to the pharmacy to get some ointment and on the way home more memories come flooding in, the incident having triggered it. He remembers the moment his dad was shot and the boiling kettle fell. He was standing there and his little sister behind him. He remembers what she looked like–exactly like Jin Kang as a child and from a previous episode he conveniently has a photo of her to pull out of his wallet.

Jin Kang is Moo Young’s sister. This will set any progress he’s made at healing, way, way back. He will now feel more a monster than ever and is really not going to want to tell her this information. He’s also going to be seriously ticked off that Officer Yoo kept this information to himself instead of coming clean. Letting someone commit incest–Moo Young’s kind of right, people like him are the worst, putting all of their sins on other people. First how Jin Kang had to grow up, feeling burdened and guilty, how Moo Young had to grow up anchorless, and now this. Yikes.

Ultimately, I’m finding the story more tragic than gross, but I really hope there aren’t anymore love scenes unless they decide to do another flip and reveal that Jin Kang is actually a childhood friend or something. What is Moo Young going to do?  How’s he going to form any sort of life after this? His one true love is his sister, thus explaining their uncanny comfortableness with each other. Smiles will be nowhere to be found for quite awhile.

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes: Ep. 13 Review

Revelations are coming fast now as the plot picks up speed; however, a lot of this episode was filling in gaps that we maybe already know or guess, but the characters on the show do not. It’s an engaging episode despite mostly setup for Episode 14.

Ever amused by Officer Yoo, Moo Young tells him that being a murderer doesn’t suit him, recalling an earlier conversation they had about murderers. No hard feelings about the stabbing, ok? Moo Young is an odd duck, that’s for sure.

Episode 13 is primarily about Moo Young’s quest to learn about his past. He is going on this journey alone, though Jin Kang gives him moral support. Moo Young travels to the mountain in Haesan where his dad supposedly committed suicide and gets bombarded with a slew of memories that lead him to his old house on the mountain. It’s a house made of stone with an angel on top and a cross inside. His family was perhaps Christian. Everything appears to be left as it was after the accident/shooting he remembers. New things he now remembers are his kid brother by the name of Yoon and the fact that he did actually see it was Officer Yoo who shot his dad.

Moo Young is amused by Officer Yoo no longer.

As for Officer Yoo, he talks briefly on the phone with the psychiatrist and we realize that the doctor is just taking his word for it that Moo Young’s dad committed suicide. So looks like no collusion between the two. Officer Yoo meets Deputy Tak for a drink as usual and he confirms for her that Moo Young is the child he was searching for so long ago. Officer Yoo also says that he shot Moo Young’s dad because he was scared. He recalls Moo Young saying that he doesn’t like things for free, that he likes living by “eye for eye and tooth for tooth.” Officer Yoo agrees, nothing in life is free, and he tells Tak that if Moo Young wants eye for eye and tooth for tooth that’s ok with him. Officer Yoo fully expects retaliation for what he did.

I had to point this out because it’s a Korean film reference I actually get because I saw the movie. There’s a shot of Kim Moo Young waiting for Jin Kang at a nearby school. He’s hanging upside down on the bars and staring across the track and field area to the school. This is a very direct reference to the movie Our Town that I quick reviewed not too long ago. It’s an extremely disturbing film about how trauma begets trauma with psycho killers reenacting their pasts over and over again.  I actually do not recommend watching it as although it may offer some truth, it offers no hope or goodness, unlike this show that has hope in how the story is told and in the characters of Tak, Eom Cho Rong, and especially Jin Kang. Is Moo Young like the psycho killers in Our Town? Is his past something he is unable to escape and must live over and over again, maybe even kill because of over and over again?

Moo Young lies to Jin Kang about lying. This news about what her pretend brother did is something he can’t share with her. But he has to be sure, so while the pretend siblings are at work, Moo Young breaks into their house (he did memorize the code!) and finds the lost child ad that Officer Yoo keeps in his room. Officer Yoo returns early due to a pot being left on the stove. Although he misses Moo Young, he encounters him on the street and from the daggers in his eyes and the fact that someone turned off the stove and put the pot in the sink, Officer Yoo knows the young man was in their house. He finds his beloved missing child ad missing. One thing Moo Young has confirmed is that the missing child is himself.

Perhaps returning to his monster status roots, Moo Young visits CEO Jang who is dead gone on him and is going to be in serious trouble. She makes him wait, pretending she has any leverage here, but there’s no question that Moo Young is calling the shots just like he does with every woman. Moo Young asks the CEO to get him a gun and also agrees to do anything for her. Since he’s just playing her, it’s unlikely that he really means that promise, but then he has an odd tendency for honesty, so we’ll see.

Moo Young gets the gun and bullets and CEO Jang tells him she wants him, has fallen for him, etc. He pretty much scoffs and rolls his eyes–this is definitely a man who really doesn’t like being chased, preferring to do the chasing–and flatly disagrees that they are at all alike, an assertion CEO Jang keeps bringing up oh so hopefully. She’s lonely. It’s kind of sad. She does reveal to him, however, that it was Officer Yoo looking for him as a child, not his father like he thought. Since Moo Young has thought his dad was a police officer this whole time, this news confuses him. He asks CEO Jang if she’ll look more into his past for him and especially find out the whereabouts of his mother and younger brother. Perhaps thinking of her dead brother, CEO Jang says that younger brothers are no use in having and why would Moo Young want to look for him.  “And you think we’re alike?” Moo Young scoffs. Yeah, he holds the cards. Every single one.

The end is a standard cliffhanger. After establishing that Jin Kang will be pulling an all-nighter at work, Moo Young decides it’s a good night to shoot Officer Yoo and the episode ends with him threatening to do just that.

A few other notable things:

Jin Kang and her coworkers are just a vehicle for the show to advertise food and instant coffee. The ad in this episode was particularly egregious and really detracts from such a fine show that has a production quality to rival any film.

Upon seeing a robot that Moo Young brought from his childhood home, Jin Kang doesn’t suddenly have memories revealing she, too, was there. So, either she really wasn’t there and their similar burns come from two separate accidents, or (more likely) she was too young or honestly doesn’t remember anything about the accident or her childhood. Moo Young seems pretty sure this Yoon he now remembers–actually he eventually says Kang Yoon–is his younger brother, but that’s super unlikely considering the show this one is based on. Will they ultimately turn out to be siblings? If so, will Moo Young try to keep the truth from Jin Kang at any cost? Will he and Officer Yoo even make an agreement to do just that? Does the officer even know they are siblings (if they are)? He hasn’t mentioned it, but that doesn’t mean anything.

Lastly, a shout out to all of the awesome plaid shirts and coats that mostly Moo Young wears. It just makes me think, again, of the great state of Minnesota. And it’s sad we seem to be saying goodby to the breweries as Moo Young has been fired/laid off from Eagle brewery.

Ep. 14 review up for next time.