The Smile Has Left Your Eyes: Ep. 5 Review

The writing on this show makes use a lot of the “catch up” device. The audience is given information on many things ahead of time, but we follow the characters as they make their own discoveries of the same things. However, with the great acting and engrossing story and how everything unfolds keeps the show fresh and interesting.

Showing perhaps how kind they are, pretend brother and sister Yoo Jin Kook and Yoo Jin Kang rush Im Yoo Ri (Tattoo girl) to the hospital when she passes out after trying to kill Jin Kang. Both are baffled as to why Yoo Ri should do such a thing, and at first Officer Yoo assumes he was her original target due to his questioning her about her friend’s death. The audience knows her target was actually Jin Kang as she is jealous of Kim Moo Young’s attentions to her, but it takes a few scenes for most everyone to learn this, even Moo Young.

As for the murder mystery, Kim Moo Young is still Officer Yoo’s prime suspect and he and  junior detective Eom Cho Rong spend a lot of time hunting down CCTV or security camera footage that would show he was at the scene of the crime. They also start to center their investigation around Im Yoo Ri as she and her friend who died were in a picture holding Beer Festival glasses from Arts Brewery. In an earlier episode, Officer Yoo spotted a Beer Festival umbrella someone carried while walking on the street. They smartly gain more access to even more cameras and footage by using the excuse of a stolen scooter case. This case was not far from the apartment where the girl died (I think, the English subtitles for this part weren’t completely finished when I watched it).

As far as Moo Young goes, he’s looking guiltier and guiltier as Officer Yoo confirms he is definitely left handed and Moo Young has the trophy (not a ballet girl like I originally thought. Not sure what it’s supposed to be). He takes the trophy from the cooler and other incriminating items and places them in a flowerpot in his apartment. We are left thinking he’s either guilty and trying to decide what to do with the evidence or is puzzled as to why these items are at his place. Maybe he’s still investigating, too. The third possibility is that he was witness to an accident and helped someone, maybe Im Yoo Ri, cover it up.

Jumping back to the topic of CCTV cameras, security cameras, and black box cameras in cars: If this is modern police work in South Korea, they must have a pretty easy job. Everything everywhere is recorded, especially by cars. Why people have these boxes constantly recording everything from their cars, I don’t know, but it’s kind of creepy. We maybe have this in the US, too, I just haven’t heard a lot about it here. The value is obvious when it comes to an accident or whatnot, but it seems a major invasion of privacy. Anyway, Officer Yoo definitely places Kim Moo Young walking to the scene of the crime, as it’s caught on the black box of a passing car. He’s holding the umbrella. Officer Yoo speculates Moo Young took a specific route to get there because he knew he could avoid security cameras along that route.

We find out a lot more about Im Yoo Ri this episode. She’s more than just a one-note character and we are left wondering exactly how she knows Kim Moo Young, especially because she goes to the same psychologist who perhaps knows him from when he was a child. Moo Young sees a book this psychologist wrote and it includes Yoo Ri’s story. Although he passes the book to Yoo Jin Kang, as it’s her brother’s, we can be pretty confident he’s at least flipped through it and knows the contents. Yoo Ri is so rude and prone to suicidal tendencies because she went through some kind of trauma (likely abuse) at a young age. She was nine the first time she tried to kill herself and has been seeing the psychologist ever since. When Yoo Ri tries to get rid of the evidence she tried to run over Jin Kang, Officer Yoo is at first in an angry hurry to get it back as he decides to arrest her, but upon reading her story in the book holds off on turning in the evidence he has.

Before writing about how the relationship between our leads Kim Moo Young and Yoo Jin Kang, is going, let’s talk about the Damsel. Baek Seung Ah is living in a fantasy. She thinks Moo Young really loves her and that she can give up everything, throw caution to the wind, and run away with him to Greece or Morocco where they will live happily ever after. She persists in this thinking even though Moo Young has stopped returning her calls and texts and he finally just has to tell her that he’s not interested, and of course she deals with that by thinking it’s her fault and that she can somehow fix things. Moo Young appears to be a player and has surely been down this road before, but he still seems a little confused that she doesn’t get that this was just a fling for him.

For being so smart, Moo Young is very out of touch with his emotions–and he appears to have some, although guarded at best. Obviously, being nonemotional helps him manipulate people, but it is possible since he once encountered or was even a patient of the psychologist who keeps popping up, that he has some kind of mental illness due to a childhood trauma–the incident where he and Jin Kang got their scars. Or he’s just a sociopath. Moo Young is so not aware that it takes Yoo Ri to tell him he has a thing for Jin Kang. He seems surprised by this information and tells Jin Kang that he likes her but that he wants to spend more time together to check.

Their budding friendship comes to a halt at this. Jin Kang is a good friend and is angry at Moo Young for wanting to date her while still dating her friend. She tries to get the Damsel to stop and think that she really doesn’t know Moo Young well at all and I can’t help thinking Jin Kang would have been better off taking Moo Young’s hint and just telling the Damsel that he’s a playing, cheating scumbag. Because he is a player and likely a murderer, I’m not too thrilled that Jin Kang is attracted to him, but attraction often just happens and is difficult to end. Still, Jin Kang stays strong, calling Moo Young out on how he’s treated her friend. Moo Young explains dating a pretty girl as a way of “checking” if love might be out there, even though he doesn’t believe in love, much like an atheist will go into a beautiful church just to check if God really does exist. Jin Kang’s response to this is: A person’s heart means nothing to you, right? The expression on Moo Young’s face says it all: No, but why is that a problem?

This smart, nonemotional young man has suddenly stepped into territory out of his depth. She’s upset with him, but he’s doesn’t understand why. Jin Kang walks away from him, refusing his offer to date and saying she feels sorry for him that he doesn’t really care about people. Looking as crestfallen as is possible for him, there’s a hint that perhaps this is the first time Moo Young’s own feelings or heart have really been hurt. Or maybe he’s just ticked he can’t manipulate Jin Kang as easily as other women.

Despite their relationship being on hold, the bigger picture is already at play: Eventually Moo Young is going to bring Jin Kang completely over to his side, either by manipulating her, or by some discoveries yet to be unveiled. Officer Yoo is hotly against Jin Kang having any relationship with Moo Young. Im Yoo Ri and the Damsel are also threatened by this relationship, indicating that at least in their minds the nature of that relationship must surely be romantic.

The saddest part of the episode for me was that the Damsel’s crazy fiancee got Moo Young fired from the Arts brewery, as he just couldn’t stand the sight of the man who’s cuckolded him (okay, the two had only promised to marry, but still). Moo Young’s handsome boss kindly offers to send him to another brewery, the Eagle brewery, at least for awhile. I am sad we may not be seeing the Arts logo and truck as much anymore, because I really started to like them and Moo Young’s character had become connected to them. Oh well. People, even fictional characters, are not the stuff that surrounds them.

Outstanding things going on: The silence. It is used well, and the little music in the show is subtle yet effective. I like the guitar string part (I think it’s guitar) that is often played during the beginning recap or connection from last episode to the new one, and that is also played at the end. It kind of reminds me of the same musical motif used in AMC’s series The Killing, though that, I think, was drums. The other thing is the acting, especially from Seo In Guk. He’s definitely in tune with the series title, The Smile Has Left Your Eyes. It’s creepy how Moo Young’s eyes change when he hears something he doesn’t want to or if people aren’t acting as he wants them to. The scene where he’s trying to figure out from Im Yoo Ri why she tried to kill Jin Kang is great. He flirts with her just enough to get the information he needs, and then his eyes go dead, just as if she’s dead to him after sharing her reasons.

Until next episode. –P. Beldona

Dramafever is Gone

When Dramafever was bought out by Warner, I was a bit uneasy that they were just going to try to make a fast buck off of the Kdrama popularity or purposefully take out competition. Seems like it ended up being the latter. Dramafever is no more, and so I will have to elsewhere to finish watching Suspicious Housekeeper and Tree with Deep Roots. The good thing is Viki is still around, but probably only because it has joined with Kocowa, which is a streaming service from Korea.

The bigger picture is, this is a fight. Big fish like Netflix and Amazon are trying to get a piece of this pie of Kdrama popularity, and Asian entertainment in general. Good thing is, it’s such a big trend that likely more opportunities will open up in the future. It will be interesting to see what happens as Korea, China, and other countries all fight to come up on top now that many Americans specifically, but others around the world also, are turning from watching US entertainment only and branching out to more and more entertainment from other countries.

It already has been fascinating to watch the struggles of countries who want the world audience, but need to keep their base, the citizens of their own country, both audiences of which have very different values, cultures, and expectations. One example of the US dithering on this is Hollywood aligning and in some cases getting bought out by Chinese companies who demand censorship in the form of always showing China in a positive light no matter what. American freedom vs. Chinese RMB. Sadly, it is the RMB that often wins out, which, ironically, is perhaps why so many have started to look away from America to South Korea, Japan, and even China for better stories.


Agatha Christie and Qanon

Agatha Christie is one of my go-to authors. Her mysteries are often second to none and great adventures to boot, as her characters often travel to exotic places. Most of her stories can be read in one sitting, and most are more than mysteries: they give us her insights into human nature as well as quiet, no frills love stories.

That being said, she has a few misses, at least in my opinion. I don’t care for her Harley Quin stories and some of her stories that are political spy thrillers. However The Man in the Brown Suit is my absolute favorite by her, and as I’m going to read that again soon, I’ll be sure to do a review later on. This week I read Passenger to Frankfurt and though I enjoy politics and spies, I found this story tedious and difficult to follow.

When this happens with an author I like, I often try to finish the book anyway and find something to enjoy about it. Strangely enough, the violent, anarchic world revolution happening in the book has similarities to the violence and anarchy happening in our world today. Christie refers to certain people of wealth being behind violent youth movements that think they are going to change the world, but really are only puppets for those with power who want more of it.

This has a lot to do with what the elusive Q or Qanon shares with followers on the 8-Chan boards. If you don’t know about Q, I highly recommend at least brushing up on it, as for good or bad, this Qanon is influencing a lot of people. We are all hoping the Q team is on the side of good and he/they appear to be working in conjunction with President Trump in order to get information out by bypassing the media. Q posts questions, phrases, codes, essentially, and asks anons (the anonymous users of 8-chan) to research people and their connections to power, trafficking, crime, and the like.

Despite the Q phenomenon being painted like a cult, the point of it seems largely to get people to think for themselves, to do their own research, and really to realize how much they are lied to and how much is purposefully kept hidden from them by the media. It is also has been a great boost for Trump and MAGA supporters, especially those who find following politics via legal moves and C-Span rather tedious and boring. Researching death and sex cults will always be more interesting. In recent weeks, some Q followers have gotten frustrated that there’s been no fantastic arrests of all the evildoers yet or that we aren’t fighting a physical war yet, or something. People are bored again, because politics, research, and the like, it’s not glamorous or exciting. It’s tedious, dogged work, and one often has to take the longer route when the shorter would be far more exciting.

In consequence the Q team, too, seems a bit down. No one’s seeing the amazing things that have already happened–the true exchanges of power happening in the USA and the world–and are only focusing on what hasn’t happened yet, and frankly, what may never happen. The “wheels of justice are slow,” Q says, and they understand the followers’ frustration.

So how does this connect with Passenger to Frankfurt and Agatha Christie? Well, the story is essentially about a group of people, spies, trying to stop a violent world movement. It is the same thing, old rich people stirring up the young. The young think they are fighting for good and that their violent overthrowing of everything will eventually bring about some kind of utopia. We have seen this in countless revolutions throughout the ages, but it is only the rich and powerful who win in these movements, for they are safe from the violence and get away with instigating crimes while the young get batoned, tear gassed, and arrested. And the utopia never comes, because it’s all about more power or new power for certain people.

At one point in the story, someone draws a diagram showing how so many things are connected or controlled by the same rich people, the same 13 families or Illuminati of conspiracy yore: finance, armament, art, the drug trade, the sex trade, slavery etc. Q research has shown many that the same groups of people (think George Soros) are pulling the strings behind, well, almost everything. It’s unsettling to find that certain people have so much power. Who do they think they are? That’s the question. Do they think they are gods or what?

Christie envisions one such person as a very old, fat woman who has every indulgence and only surrounds herself with beautiful young people all eager for the revolution. This revolution is connected largely to Hitler of WW2 fame, and its hinted that these people are yet again trying to create a “pure” human race using a supposed descendant of Adolf. Today, where anyone who doesn’t agree with anyone else is labeled as a “Nazi” or the next “Hitler,” placing him on a pedestal as the ultimate evil yet again is, well, tedious. Hitler wasn’t the first to start this kind of thing or try to rule the world, and he wasn’t even the most successful. Yet, Christie uses him, because he’s an easily identifiable evil, or was, to most people in 1970.

I saw this revolution stuff, too, in my college years. I graduated in 2000 and I can tell you my classmates were as much in love with Mao and Che Guevara as students probably are today. No eyes were batted at these people being violent mass murderers; it was enough they were not American, or against America, or against being just boring vanilla or something. That was the thing, then, and probably still is today. The young are taught that being peaceful and having a happy family, that these things are all lies of some kind because of course some families and some people are unhappy, so therefore it’s wrong for anyone else to be happy or normal or something. We see this in the LGBTQ movement, where the normal romantic loves between a man and woman are pushed aside in pursuit of being unique or troubled in some way. Why is youth so tempted by this stuff? It’s first of all a desire to fit in with one’s peers, the exact opposite of what’s professed, and also the wanting to do something special. And it is a desire for a world with no bad outcomes, no bad choices, and no bad consequences. (But it’s a lie, and as a result so many of these young people commit suicide because they know it’s a lie and they’re just waiting for someone to chastise them with the truth and no one does. It’s like seeing a brother hit his sister and the child knows he’s doing wrong, but the parents always say it’s good, what he’s doing is good. Nothing wrong, no wrong choices, and after awhile the child can’t take it anymore because he knows it’s wrong what he’s doing. It’s written on his heart. It’s written on all of our hearts.)

The trouble with the “heaven on earth” idea is that we are all humans who have only lived on earth. We don’t know what heaven is, not really, and if we are marching to another’s drum, we are trying to implement their version of a heaven, not actually Heaven. Human nature also can’t be controlled completely by other humans, and if it can, the loss of freedom would be great. We’ll stab you in the back as much as we’ll love you, and so utopian movements fail as people start to grab power only for themselves or lose faith in the movement.

Near the end of the story, Christie brings up this Benvo project or benevolence project, basically a scientific experiment to make people stop being violent and desire only other people’s good. Normal benevolence is a great thing, this would be a nightmare. By this point in the story, I honestly wasn’t sure if these people were the good guys or the bad guys at this point. They wanted to stop the violent movements by drugging people into being good, no, not being good, making them have no desires but to please others. Ella Enchanted, anyone? It would be the worst kind of slavery! Basically, the conclusion is that people who want to rule the world for whatever reason are ultimately not be trusted. They come to see themselves as gods and other people as ants. Like Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, they think of themselves all as great Napoleons, too smart to be chained by any laws whatsoever. And they will eagerly commit murder or lobotomies for the sake of their future “heaven on earth.”

What does that have to do with Q? Well, we want to believe the Q team is the good guys, and I do hope they are, but the reality is that they may be, too, envisioning a world that can only succeed with careful control over everyone and everything. If the “swamp” is drained, if all corruption stamped out, and all the criminals brought to justice, even then, even then, new people will be waiting at the gates to seize power. The peace and prosperity will only be until the corruption and revolutions start again. Q says to “trust the plan” and says the followers are watching things unfold almost like a movie. It’s mostly good and it’s mostly exciting, but the truth is that it’s not a movie, it’s real life. And the truth is, all the new information people have unearthed can be just as useless as it can be useful. The strides made are largely political moves that bore the young to tears. Talk about FISA and people’s eyes glaze over (as one example).

This is not to dampen the efforts of Q, Trump, or MAGA, but this all is about exchanging the old guard of power into a new guard, hopefully better than the last, but still never quite the “power for the people” that’s always promised. We can have anarchy or we can have rulers, and anarchy only leads to stricter rulers. Peace, prosperity, freedom. These are the goals, and can only be reached for the average person by having a good strong man in power, and good, strong men are rare, rarer still if they don’t get corrupted by being in power.

The real good in the world is found in everyday life, in normalcy, in living in the truth. And so Christie’s book ends with the promise of a wedding, the man has gotten his girl, their naughty little bridesmaid says her prayers and seems back on the straight and narrow, and the world is whole again, for a time. As a Christian I know without God, we are nothing, that a world without Him would be hell. Still, it’s tempting to look to other people, like Trump, as someone who can save us from ourselves, but he’s not a savior, he’s breaking the media’s hold on us, and that’s no small thing. He’s showing us how hollow the promises of our congressmen are, and that’s no small thing. He’s showing us that good has to be fought for, and that’s a big thing, perhaps the biggest thing. We can’t have utopia, but we may be able to live in peace for a time, and this may mean embracing nationalism and discarding the globalism that is only putting the poorest of us in stricter chains.

The world is bad enough already, Q says, but there are those rich and powerful who are only fostering more hurt, manufacturing more war, and they should be relieved of their power for the sake of everyone. The Clinton’s should be in jail, shouldn’t they? It’s best to think of things in those terms, I think: Crimes and punishments for them. It does no good to dream on about utopias, Libertarian or otherwise. There may be no mass arrests or martial law, but why would we want either, really? It’s enough if there’s one significant arrest and we avoid martial law and the good strong man becoming the bad strong man. It’s good enough if we avoid being experimented on and made to love being good or love the state, like in 1984. Even God doesn’t force us to be good, even God doesn’t force us to believe in Him.

Sigh. One tries to be an insightful writer, telling truths no one else seems to get or something, but it’s all like a lecture and tedious and I got sort of bored writing it all out, just as I got bored with whatever dear Agatha was trying to say in her story. The truly profound is elusive. Politics are politics. Power is power. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Passenger to Frankfurt like Qanon, is only remarkable because today we have been so very, very steeped in lies. In a climate where the truth is mostly apparent, i.e. common sense, these kinds of stories and devices wouldn’t be needed. But humans tend to lie and be illogical, so we’ll see these stories pop up time and again to remind us we are being manipulated. We are being manipulated, but aside from knowing the truth, there’s not much the average person can do. That’s the lesson. At most one can share the truth with other people. As a Christian, this makes sense to me, for Christianity is much the same: Here is the way things are. Here is Jesus, the way to salvation. You can believe in Him or not. That’s about it. But that’s everything! Because believing in Jesus gives us the confidence to go out and do good and have that power of positive thinking that Trump was raised on. So in Christ’s name, we can have the grand plans, the grand stories, and also the everyday ones. We can have all the cake and eat it too, but that Heaven will not be on this broken earth.

Ok, there I go again. One tries to say something wise and it just ends up sounding like a lecture. Anyway, Passenger to Frankfurt strangely connects with the Q movement, if only in the sense that it tries to pull back the curtain, so show the people pulling the strings. Things are more interconnected than we’d like to believe. People have a staggering amount of power and wealth and hide it well. These are things to be aware of. Conspiracy theories should be researched, not scoffed at. Great wrongs are often righted in the world behind the scenes, sometimes with spies and crazy plans and people who will forever have to be anonymous. They are not important, but what they are doing is.

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes: Ep. 4 Review

We begin with Officer Yoo playing catchup. He’s waiting outside Kim Moo Young’s house when Kim arrives in the morning in his “walk of shame” same clothes as yesterday and disheveled hair. Yoo tries to trap him into confessing either that he is the murderer of the girl or at least that he arranged all of those snow globes in perfect order. Moo Young simply plays with him, solidifying that whether he’s good or bad, he’s not going to give anyone easy answers about himself.

Much of the episode is spent with the Damsel in her half-hearted attempts to rebel against both her mother and her fiancee. She confesses her love for Kim Moo Young, but, like him, we are left wondering if she really means it, especially as she took him to a cheap hotel. Moo Young appears increasingly disgusted by her and her family’s selfishness and the straw that breaks that camel’s back is when the Damsel’s mother hauls out and slaps Yoo Jin Kang in a move that might as well be a punch. The violence from women in this show, I tell ya. The acting from both leads is amazing in this scene as Jin Kang is trying to hide how upset she is and Moo Young is trying to offer her a friendly shoulder.

More hints are given to the possible kind nature of Moo Young in his attitude towards Jin Kang and also the fact that animals seem to like him and aren’t afraid of him. He was also raised by nuns who seem on the loving side (he attends a funeral for one of them). And then, there’s the cooler. What’s in the cooler he keeps outside his door? And where’s that cat we haven’t seen in so long? Maybe animals are just really dumb and like humans can’t always sense the evil in people?

Moo Young and Jin Kang are full on bonding now, finding themselves to be kindred spirits who both have scars, are both orphans, and are both originally from the same town. They are more relaxed around each other than anyone else, and Moo Young clearly has more interest in Jin Kang than the Damsel, and I’m still really hoping they don’t turn out to be siblings.

This is unlikely, however, as we learn that Yoo Jin Kook and Yoo Jin Kang are not really brother and sister. Perhaps irritated by Officer’s Yoo’s constant meddling in his case, the lead of team three, Lee Kyung Cheol (Choi Byung Mo) is less than thrilled to find out that both are pretending to be siblings. He scolds Jin Kook, asking him if she’s the child from that case so long ago. Officer Yoo seems crushed by his anger and his bantering friend Tak So Jung takes him out for a drink in the middle of the day. They are cute together and it seems like they could bring each other some badly needed happiness. At one point she seems about to make a love confession to him, but he cuts her off, wanting to continue joking.

From what she says to Moo Young, Jin Kang appears to think that Jin Kook really is her brother.

Meanwhile, Tattoo girl is having a breakdown, and I give acting props to Go Min Si, because the girl really does seem like she could either kill herself or someone else. We find her increasing obsession with Kim Moo Young explained by the fact that he saved her from committing suicide. But she’s a denier and claims not to like him while stalking him at the same time, turning jealous as his attentions are now all on Jin Kang.

We meet another blast from Moo Young’s past in the psychologist on TV at the beginning. He is treating Tattoo Girl, won’t give her anymore medication (which she seems to desperately need), and is also possibly her father, but their conversation isn’t very clear. It also isn’t clear if he understands the guy she keeps referring to is the boy he remembers from so long ago. He also gets a glimpse of Moo Young at the nun’s funeral and we don’t yet know why he’s there. Did he used to work for the Catholic institution? Does he still?

In Officer Yoo’s investigation, he is on the search for a ballet trophy the dead girl had that is missing. Tattoo girl remembers seeing the statue on the floor in the band room she lives in, but doesn’t know what happened to it. We find later–that’s what’s in the cooler! Oh, and the cat, who Moo Young has decided to call Jin Kang, is safe! However, it is not clear whether Moo Young has know it was there the whole time, put it there himself, or is surprised to find it there. Seo In Guk is very good at confusing noncommittal expressions, which is why he’s the perfect actor for this role. He will keep us guessing until the very end.

Speaking of the end, the episode ends with a bang as Tattoo Girl finally snaps and tries to run over Jin Kang. In her defense, she is clearly not in her right might and may even have gotten drugs or medication, as she appears to have passed out after.

All in all, it was a pretty exciting episode, but I think we’re tiring of the whole poor rich girl Damsel storyline. It doesn’t quite fit with everything else going on and one has to wonder if she’s going to be the next one to end up dead as she behaves more and more recklessly. Not to mention that she is surrounded by angry, violent, unstable people. Even her friend Jin Kang is losing good will towards her as Moo Young points out that she didn’t even apologize for her mother’s slap, but keeps plowing on expecting Jin Kang to continue helping her meet her boyfriend illicitly.

One thing I really like about the show so far is that there’s a lot of info in what’s not said. Silence is used well, as well as placement of background items, the setting in general, and especially who is simply in a particular scene. The story will probably get a whole lot more complicated before everything becomes clear, but that’s what will make it a good yarn. The big question is, who is at the center of this web and also, why?

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes: Episode 3 review

Scars do affect people. My own scars are mostly ones that no one sees. In 1978 I was born about three months premature. There was a hole in my chest – something to do with lungs or heart – and I was blue, likely to have brain damage, and not likely to survive. I still bear a lot of scars on my body from the trauma of being born too early and being fed intravenously and the like. These scars don’t affect me much because no one ever sees them. If someone does happen for some reason to see them, and asks about them, I don’t even know how to answer. It’s not a trauma I really remember, but my body bears the marks all the same. It’s perhaps easier to deal with scars that one remembers getting, but only just. It depends entirely on the events that led to getting the scar(s). Was it a violent event or something mundane, like acne?

Episode Three of The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (Hundred Million Stars from the Sky) brings the scar issue to the forefront because our main characters Kim Moo Young and Yoo Jin Kang both bear them. Like most women trying to be tough, Jin Kang pretends her large scar on her arm doesn’t affect her at all, while Moo Young proudly uses his similar scar as a pickup tool for sympathetic women. He’s a little hurt when his tactic doesn’t work on Jin Kang, but he’s a slippery one, clearly showing interest in her, but not specifying the kind or degree. Is she merely amusing to him, really remind him of a little sister, or does he see her as a romantic interest despite dating her friend?

A lot happens in episode three, but much of it is catch up to what the audience already knows or suspects. Police officer Yoo Jin Kook is the primary vehicle for this as he chases one lead after another, convinced that the violent crimes team has the wrong man. He focuses first on Im Yoo Ri, who has a distinctive tattoo in her neck (from now on I’ll be referring to her as tattoo girl). The audience is a couple of steps ahead of him, having already been shown the photo that Moo Young was staring at and having been introduced to tattoo girl as his movie date. From the episode it’s clear tattoo girl is involved, but she herself doesn’t seem to remember how. There is also the issue of a missing ballet statue that the dead girl won. Officer Yoo is convinced if he can find the statue, he can find the killer.

Stepping back to the scar issue, as we all know, not all scars are physical. Officer Yoo has fun banter with his policewoman friend Tak So Jung (Jang Young Nam), and we get the impression as people often do about male-female friendships, that they secretly have a thing for each other. If so, why has no move been made? Two things: First, So Jung is rather off-putting and violent in her actions, even if she’s just joking around, and officer Yoo often steps tentatively around her. Second, she bears emotional scars from a past relationship that haven’t healed yet. How long ago she was hurt, we aren’t told, but it may have been a very long time ago and officer Yoo may be just waiting for time to dissipate that hurt. Or maybe he doesn’t see her romantically at all and is just a good friend. We don’t really know at this point.

We learned more about Kim Moo Young this episode, but not a lot more than we’ve suspected. He’s an orphan, which is no surprise, and was raised in a catholic institution. His name was given to him there. He claims his father was a police officer and we find, through his relationship with Baek Sung Ah (aka the Damsel) that he often does tell the truth, just in a roundabout way, perhaps leaving himself an escape route. Speaking of those, it seems that he wants to end things with the Damsel and was hoping her friend Yoo Jin Kang would tell her that he’s cheating on her. This isn’t directly said, but was heavily implied in episode two and we find in episode three that the woman he is most interested in is Jin Kang. So much so that he won’t even take a phone call from his supposed girlfriend while he’s talking to her. So much so that he’s pretty honest about walking around in a sleeveless shirt in the hopes that Jin Kang will ask him about his scar. No one, not even him, seems to know the nature if his interest in Jin Kang, but she’s foremost in his mind and clearly enjoys the game of trying to get through her defenses.

The two leads have their banter going on, but it seems a lot more like a battle, with Jin Kang almost desperately trying to fight her attraction for Moo Young. And fight it, she should, because if he doesn’t turn out to be a long-lost brother, he’s a total player, leading the Damsel on and even sleeping with her in the Damsel’s somewhat futile attempts to avoid being entrapped in an arranged marriage. (We learn a lot of the tidbits about Moo Young’s past from her fiancee Woo Sung, who is threatened enough by him to have started investigating him). On top of that, Moo Young might very well turn out to be a sociopath and a murderer. He’s already been shown manipulating people (mostly the Damsel) a few times, and either is highly intelligent or has a photographic memory. It’s still not clear how he fits into the murder, if he’s just investigating it or participated in it, but we’ll likely find out soon enough.

In the meantime, the writer and director keep us busy imagining the worst. Moo Young kicks idly at a cooler outside his front door, and everyone’s thinking: “What’s in that? Oh, no, we haven’t seen that cat in awhile. What’s in it? What’s in the cooler?” He also seems more interested in the Damsel the more her mother and fiancee try to hold onto her, not because of the woman herself, but because it’s like a game to him.

The end of the episode is another catchup with Officer Yoo. His lead on tattoo girl hasn’t gone anywhere, but he’s got a new lead on an umbrella that has him thinking about Arts Brewery and Moo Young. From his sister, he finds out that Moo Young likely has a photographic memory that would have allowed him to rearrange shelves of snow globes perfectly in their previous arrangement. Yoo at first puts a snow globe question to the suspect they have in custody, but whoever put the globes in order, it wasn’t him. The suspect also appears to be in genuine mourning for the deceased, pleading with the officers to find the real killer. When Officer Yoo finds out about Moo Young’s ability, he goes to his rooftop apartment, waiting to ask him if he’s the murderer. He also remembers that Moo Young significantly looked into a mirror at the police station at the end of episode two when he said he was looking at the real murderer. The photos and the mirror, both things left for the audience to catch and for officer Yoo to followup on, not so much to further the investigation, but to solidify and cross out the possibilities one by one. But with Moo Young’s evasiveness and manipulation, I doubt any possibility connected with him will be easy to cross out.

Last but not least, a shoutout to whoever decided to set a lot of the story at an artisan brewery. These things, and wineries, are all the rage in Minnesota these days, and so it just feels like a common connection with South Korea. Maybe it’s a story that could be set here, too. Looking forward to watching episode four as the plot thickens.

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes: Ep. 2 review

Episode 2 felt a little slow to me, unlike episode one which seemed to move a lot faster, but that’s pretty typical of stories where there’s a lot to be revealed. One wants to know everything now, but things need to be revealed in their own time. This episode, we learned a lot of tidbits and solidified the mood of a quiet unease. Something is unidentifiably wrong.

So far I’m liking the music in general, but it’s only noticed in key moments when it is helping to further the plot, most notably at the end of this episode when a suspect for the murder in episode one is brought in. The opening credit montage with the kaleidoscope motif furthers the idea that what we are seeing isn’t the reality, not just yet.

So, what did we learn? Yoo Jin Kang (Jung So Min) definitely appears to be a product designer and is currently working on a contract for the Arts brewing company that Kim Moo Young (Seo in Guk) works for. Writing wise, this is of course an easy way to make sure they keep running into each other.

One of these occasions is a date. Jin Kang’s officer brother (it seems really like he’s just had some kind of demotion to a regular beat cop and likely not by choice) Yoo Jin Kook (Park Sung Woong) has set her up with his younger colleague Eom Cho Rong (Kwon Soo Hyun) and they go for a drink at the Arts pub. Here we are shown that Jin Kang has a scar on her arm and we learn that she both hides it and likes to keep it.

Not a lot is going on with our rich damsel, Baek Seung Ah (Seo Eun Su). She’s now dating Kim Moo Young and wants to part with the rich boy that she was previously dating, only he doesn’t want to let her go. Their relationship seems to be the standard family set up and they weren’t together for love, which is why it’s so easy for her to move on. There’s some indication that Kim Moo Young is merely playing with her, as he’s seen going on a date with a different girl who, interestingly enough, is connected to the girl who was murdered. However, he tells Yoo Jin Kang that he is sincere in his pursuit of her friend.

Throughout the episode we see that Kim Moo Young really unsettles the brother and sister. Jin Kang seems drawn to him, perhaps is attracted to him, and though he tries to manipulate her into confessing, she doesn’t fall for it. We also learn that Kim Moo Young has a similar scar on his shoulder and that he remembers seeing her three times, not the two times they’ve met on the show up to that scene. Because we’ve already established that Moo Young is either very smart or has a photographic memory, we are inclined to believe him. Some time in the past he saw her or was with her and perhaps they were part of the same accident.

Contrast that with the brother, Jin Kook, who clearly remember seeing Moo Young at some point in his past, while Moo Young seems to not remember him, yet asks him very pointed questions, like has he ever shot someone? Is Moo Young struggling to remember an incident from his memory that isn’t quite clear, or does he remember and is trying to manipulate Jin Kook into giving away information? As Moo Young shows up at the end of the episode to see the murder suspect brought in, we get a startling possibility. He goes into the officers’ back room at the station and see photos he’s not supposed to. A girl in one of the photos is the girl he took on a date earlier in the episode and we recall it seemed important to him that she knew the murdered girl. Since he’s been shown as being very smart, is he himself investigating this case and trying to find the murderer? That’s an interesting idea because the evidence that officer Jin Kook found indicates Moo Young was at the scene of the crime, or someone with photographic memory was.

This episode seemed to reflect most poorly on the men in the show. They were all revealed to be lying or hiding something. Moo Young’s coworker clearly states he’s not a student and is baffled why the damsel gave him money for school. So Moo Young lied to her, but we don’t yet know what his plan is for her. The damsel’s boyfriend simply came off as a jerk who doesn’t care about her, and Jin Kook possibly shot someone in the past, but will not openly acknowledge that. The most unsettling bit is at the end where Moo Young is looking at the photos in the officers’ room. He actually seems to not be looking at the photos, but at himself in the mirror to an eerie degree that indicates a very literal narcissism. The last shot is also of him meeting his reflection’s eyes in the door as they leave the building. Is he a narcissist? Is a Jekyl and Hyde situation? Is he seeing something in the reflection that we can’t? We don’t know. We do know he is kind towards animals, so that is an indication that he may be a good guy after all, but it remains to be seen.

The elephant in the room for me is this (major spoilers, here). The original Japanese show did contain an incest plot line between brother and sister and I really hope that that’s one of the things this remake ditches, but it was carefully brought up in this episode: Moo Young teases Jin Kang, saying she’s like a cute little sister to him. It’s very likely one of the big plot reveals will be that they are actually brother and sister, which would explain why she is drawn to him and why they would have possibly been in an accident together and have similar scars. However, that would mean that Jin Kook is also his brother and it just doesn’t make sense that neither would know him immediately, but it could be their brother was supposed to have died or something.

It also brings up the question of Jin Kook, also with the implication that he shot someone: Is he really Jin Kang’s brother? Did he possibly shoot her mother or father (or if Moo Young is her brother, their mother or father or both) and then take custody of her and raise her to ease his guilt? Maybe that would be too typical of a storyline, though. However, from the show promotion posters it does appear that Moo Young is eventually going to either turn Jin Kang against her older brother, or protect her from him, or both.

Altogether, I found episode two to be so-so. The mystery part was only slightly there, and although we learned a lot about the characters, there’s something about the story that just makes them ultimately unknowable at this point. We want someone to clearly root for, but the director keeps pulling that away from us, giving us only the satisfaction that Moo Young and Jin Kang are good enough people to care about the life of a stray cat. Since they are the main characters, we will likely end up rooting for them, however, it may be uneasily so.


The Smile Has Left Your Eyes: Ep. 1 review

Especially because remake The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (or Hundred Million Stars from the Sky) is a thriller, I think it’s a bonus to have not seen the original Japanese show. No frustration over character or plot changes or the faint boredom of already knowing how the story ends.

Refreshingly, Smile, episode one doesn’t not begin with a bang, something  many of the thriller/action K-dramas try to do. The problem with this is that often spectacular first episodes are followed by mediocre one that progressively deteriorate both in substance and excitement. A few like The K2 mostly live up to their exciting first episodes, but for too many the writing just peters out. As this is a remake, it will help that the writers have an original to work off of.

We are introduced to various characters in episode one, all interacting and presumably going to become intertwined by the end of the series. The first main character we are introduced to is Kim Moo Young [character and names spellings from Asianwiki], played by Seo In Guk. The episode opens on a murder scene in which the TV plays in the background. On the TV a psychologist is being interviewed and mentions an usually 8-year-old boy and how he wonders what he is doing now, as he must be about 30. It cuts to Kim Moo Young working at his job at a beer distributer and the natural conclusion is that he is the same boy all grown up.

The next introductions are brother and sister Yoo Jin Kook and Yoo Jin Yang. Jin Kook is played by the often hilarious Park Sung Woong and is a detective or former one who now has more of an administrative job. He also appears to be a man always on the clock, a natural sniffer out of mysteries and when things just don’t sit right. At the murder scene investigation, he shows up even though he’s off duty and the team lead Lee Kyung Cheol (Choi Byung Mo) seems less than thrilled to have him around, while young detective Eom Cho Rang (Kwon Soo Hyun) has a brotherly camaraderie going on with him. Yoo Jin Kook runs across Kim Moo Young in the course of his day and puzzled that his face seems so familiar.

Yoo Jin Kook’s younger sister Yoo Jin Yang is played by the petite dynamo Jung So Min. I will have to keep watching to really figure out what Jin Yang’s job is, as it wasn’t very obvious from the episode, but it seems to be either advertising or something with design. She is invited to a very important party and supposed to talk up a VIP about contracting with her company, but this never happens as the party is for a good friend of hers and she spends most of the time joking with her brother, who arrives late.

Nothing is particularly striking about the first meeting between Yoo Jin Yang and Kim Moo Young, though they are the main characters. Kim comes across as a somewhat gruff blue collar worker, and it’s strange to think that this weathered life-hardened man is the same actor who played the softy Louie in Shopping King Louie. Seo In Guk hits all the right notes of this character, from his nonchalance, quick observance of everything around him, and the quiet malice pervading him in which his smiles never quite reach his eyes. Shades of David from Hello Monster are there, but Kim is a decidedly different person, likely to be truly dangerous, and a killer. How Seo manages to so transform himself for every role, I don’t know, but it is the reason some in the industry call him an acting genius.

As the party progresses we learn something about the damsel it is for, an artist named Baek Sung A, played by Seo Eun Su. Baek Sung A soon reaches the standard calling for damsels, to be in distress. The distress is largely caused by herself, as Kim Moo Young quickly finds that she is not as sweet and innocent as she looks, and takes advantage of that to do her a good turn and woo her away from her boyfriend in the process. Flipping back between their budding relationship and the investigation of a murdered 22 year old, we are presented with the sobering thought that Baek Sung A may be just the next girl to fall prey to serial killer Kim, who seems to be too smart for his own good. Shades of Cheese in the Trap are here, too: Is Kim just strange or does he actually have a psychological problem? Is he a killer and a sociopath or is it all just perception?

I’m looking forward to seeing what The Smile Has Left Your Eyes brings to the table in future episodes. The acting is great so far, but the only ones with clear chances to shine so far are Seo In Guk, and perhaps Seo Eun Su as the damsel.  The other characters don’t really have much uniqueness about them so far, and the brother and sister duo give me a an old cinema vibe as if they would be a sunny counterpart in a Hitchcock movie or something.

Speaking of Hitchcock, a few of the shots so far are breathtaking and I think they really got the mood right, a simmering slow burn that will ratchet up as the series progresses. This doesn’t appear as if it will end as a happy story, but will give us profound moments in which we desperately wish it was. For the joking brother and sister, we may find they have a darker history behind all of the smiles, and there’s a hint of it in the animosity Yoo Jin Kook experiences from the detective team lead and the fact that his sister doesn’t seem to be terribly good at her job.

I for one love a good mystery, so I’m hoping we have a lot of good twists, turns, and revelations to come.