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Breaking the Third Wall: Extra-Ordinary You

Although I pay for the Plus subscription on Viki, I don’t often watch shows in this category. Extra-Ordinary You is worth paying extra for. It has some flaws, which I’ll address, but overall was a great watch with a good script and good acting. Based on a web comic by Moo Ryoo, it is well suited to half-hour episodes, and although as usual the latter half of the show dragged a bit, I was excited to keep watching.

Extra-Ordinary You is first of all a take off of high school romcoms like Boys over Flowers. In fact, there are many references and nods to that show throughout this one, and although the shows are ten years apart, 2019 and 2009, the standard plot formula still works, although here we get a completely different take on it. Eun Dan Oh (Kim Hye Yoon Come and Hug Me) is a popular girl at high school, vivacious, with plenty of friends, and also some potential boyfriends. But something is amiss in her world as she suddenly begins to have amnesia and appears to be skipping parts of her life. Soon, she starts to realize that she is not behaving as she used to and is also starting to see strange things. She realizes the kitchen help, an older hottie that everyone calls “Dried Squid,” can see these things too, and goes to him for answers. Jinmiche, played by Lee Tae Ri (Tale of the Nine-Tailed and also whose real name is Lee Min Ho, sharing a name with the star of BoF and other dramas), and an interesting encounter with a book in the library, reveals to her that she is a character in a comic book. That is why she skips parts her life.

Eun Dan Oh finds this unbelievable at first, but she then embraces it, thinking how awesome it is to be the lead in a high school romcom comic book. But soon, she is quickly confronted with the reality that she is actually not the main character, but a supporting one with a rather pitiful back story in which she has a ticking clock heart condition and dating a boy who just doesn’t love her. To the horror of Dried Squid, who we find has been through this waking up of characters before, Dan Oh decides to change her plot line and defy the writer, causing all sorts of trouble.

The conduit for change in Eun Dan Oh’s story is a nameless almost characterless character that she eventually names Ha Roo (Ro Woon Where Stars Land). For much of the beginning of the show Ha Roo stays in the background, then becomes more and more prominent as his character gets filled in by the attention Eun Dan Oh shows him. After awhile it seems that Ha Roo may be the only one who can change any of the story, but why is unclear. The show is a bit trippy and reminded me of the Scream movie series in which the characters also talk like they are aware they are characters in a production. Eun Dan Oh alternates between explanation and frustration at herself and her friends acting just the way the writer wants. We never get to meet the writer, who is a stand in for the Creator God. Eun Dan Oh’s plight is instantly relatable. Who of us doesn’t think God has put us on paths from which we cannot divert? Who of us doesn’t have something plaguing us in our life, either a physical, mental, or historical affliction that we just can’t shake? Who of us doesn’t also want to change our story in some way, more than that, who of us doesn’t rely heavily on the idea of a hero to do that for us, to save us?

Although Extra-Ordinary You is often tedious and repetitive, it is also a refreshing take on the Kdrama high school romance genre. The acting is great, especially because a few of the characters are supposed to be bland, suiting the actors in the show who are maybe new to acting, or just not that good at it yet. Like in BoF, the teachers of the school are much in the background, as are the parents, and Dried Squid is really the only one who comes across as the adult in charge, though he never really takes charge, as he can’t. Although the show is a romance, the episodes focused mostly on that were s-l-o-w, and I was really glad they were only about thirty minutes by that point. I also really got tired of hearing the names Eun Dan Oh and Ha Roo, or, rather Ha Roo Ya. I think Ha Roo Ya was said more times than Goo Yun Pyo in BoF.

Other things it has going for it: The spoofing of the leads in the comic book versus the leads in the show, the soundtrack, all of the really tall guys–seriously they all appear well over six feet, but then Eun Dan Oh is very short. The scene stealers: Definitely Lee Tae Ri, or Dried Squid, who has a hard-to-miss screen presence, and Lee Do Hwa (Oh My Baby) who is definitely leading man material with his emotive eyes and expressions. Lee Na Eun as the stereotypical heroine in the comic also shows promise, but perhaps as a villain. Not everyone can play a villain well, but her acting got a thousand times more interesting when her character stopped being so nice. Someday it would be fun to read the web comic this has been based on.

Book Review: The Murder of Napoleon

One would think that a reader obsessed with Jane Austen and romances from the Regency time period would know a great deal about Napoleon Bonaparte. Alas, that would not be me, so the book The Murder of Napoleon by Ben Weider and David Hapgood, told me many interesting things about the man. Now I must add a proper biography of the infamous emperor to my stack of books to read.

So, first of all, did I mention I don’t really know much about Napoleon? I figured he died in battle or something, so was surprised to learn he was exiled to the island of St. Helena off the west coast of Africa in the years before his death. Contrast that with the authors of this book and especially the other central figure in it, one Sten Forshufvod, a Swede who followed in his father’s footsteps by obsessing over Napoleon. Obsessing is the wrong word–passionate, Forshufvod was passionate about Napoleon, and how it paid off, for back in the 1950s-60s he discovered the possibility that Napoleon didn’t die of natural causes on the island, but was murdered.

The Murder of Napoleon is a great nonfiction read. It bounces back between detailing Napoleon Bonaparte’s surrender to the British and his last years of exile on St. Helena (1815-1921) and and the efforts of Forshufvod to figure out the truth about his death during the time period of 1955-1975. Some of it’s a lot of dry information, but mostly it’s a riveting read, not only the details and quirks about Napolean’s habits and character, but also about the fields of science dealing with poison and poison detection. The book is originally from 1982, so I don’t know if Forshufvod’s findings and speculations have been officially determined and listed by France, but even if not, it’s fascinating. I was particularly struck by just how charismatic Napoleon was with almost everyone, and how enthralled even the British soldiers were with him. It was sad to see, too, how scholars and scientists get stuck in their ways and can’t look at the evidence objectively. I’m sure that science and scholarship isn’t much different today. Sometimes people just don’t want to know the truth. They prefer to believe their own version of it. I’m the same with some things, and I get how painful it can be to deal with the truth, but it’s still sad, a sad part of humanity.

If you’re looking for a great summer read, I highly recommend this engaging book that delves into the history of one of the most remarkable men who ever lived. In it, Napoleon is alternately brilliant, infuriating, and often lovable. If it’s true that he was murdered in such an awful way, I am sorry that he suffered so horribly. How awful, too, for those around him to witness his suffering and to be unable or unwilling to do anything. I’m not sure if an emperor Napoleon was better for the people than proper royalty, and I’ve read books like The Scarlet Pimpernel in which the “good” side is the aristocrats and the royals, but it would have been interesting to see what life in Europe would have been like today had Napoleon remained emperor. One thing was definite about Napoleon: he was a born leader.

Mouse: Episode 20 (Spoilers)

With God, all things are possible, especially, and most importantly, forgiveness of sins. That was the ending message of this crazy horror story. And it fits. The horror genre often goes hand in hand with religious themes, probably because the horror or horrible things are often sins or things based on sins.

In episode 20 we and Ba Reum find out that the Secretary Chief in the government, Choi Young Shin, is behind the shady organization OZ. She chose to fund this organization through the National Intelligence Service without consent. This all comes out in public due to Ba Reum, who officially turns himself in, causing great stress to Detective Go, who finally–finally!–fully concludes that Ba Reum is the cross killer. Once again, Go is foiled in his plans by Ba Reum. The first was when he wanted to go to prison to kill the Headhunter, and this time when he wishes to kill Ba Reum.

The face offs between Bong Yi and Ba Reum and Go and Ba Reum are short but great. Ba Reum really does not want to see these people he love become killers, yet he feels their pain and anguish and knows that he does deserve to die for what he’s done.

Choi Young Shin is painted as the real monster here, as her goal in having OZ watch both Ba Reum and Yo Han was to make sure one of both of them did become psychopathic murderers, all so that she could get her abortion bill passed, a bill condemning babies to death before they have committed any crime. We, and Ba Reum, find out that although he clearly had problems as a kid and was harming animals, he didn’t actually kill any humans back then and wouldn’t have except the secretary and OZ set him on that path. It doesn’t excuse the murders he did commit, but it definitely puts them in a different light. Nearly all those who want to create a utopia or their version of a heaven on earth end up harming humanity in the process. Nearly all. And because most of these people end up in government to further their plans, it’s a very, very good reason to limit all powers of government.

PD Choi gets her wish, and the very good Yo Han is declared innocent in the public eye. She, however, too, manipulated Ba Reum, along with Dr. Lee, to get him to kill other serial killers. We also learn that she was the girl who helped the Headhunter lure at least one young woman to her death. PD Choi turns herself in for this and is arrested, though I’m not sure how that works in S. Korea, since she was a child and was clearly frightened and manipulated by the Headhunter. She is also properly reunited with her father, Detective Park, who lovingly puts the handcuffs on her. With Dr. Lee, we learn Ba Reum was the one who tried to kill him and Yo Han, the doctor, saved his life.

Ba Reum ends up going to prison, to death row, and there enacts a kind of justice, for himself, and for others harmed by the Headhunter. Ba Reum fakes going back to a coldblooded killer well enough that he gets close enough to his father, the Headhunter, and kills him. The clever Headhunter doesn’t even expect this, but then he’s been stuck in prison a long time and has probably lost some of his edge.

Like the mice in his biological father’s brain surgery experiments, Ba Reum is dying and doesn’t have much time left. He does his best to make amends with Go and Bong Yi, before dying in perhaps one of the most important scenes in the entire show.

I’ll get back to that in a second, but first want to say that this episode had a plethora of great scenes and acting, especially from Kwon Hwa Woon, who plays Yo Han, and Lee Seung Gi, who plays Ba Reum. They make us really feel for these characters who got a raw deal all due to Dr. Lee’s study of the psychopath/genius gene. Much food for thought about treating children as marked bad from the day they are born. Yes, we all have original sin, but it is true that if we treat people always expecting the worst from them, not only is that psychological abuse, it often can and does bring out the worst in them. (On a side note, this brings to mind the sudden persecution of those who choose to not vaccinate, treating healthy people as if they have a disease. Again, psychological abuse and so, so wrong. Our society should be ashamed of itself).

Other great scenes were Ba Reum meeting his real mother, the Headhunter’s wife, but even better was a scene between her and Detective Go. Go is plagued with guilt now, realizing he shot an innocent Yo Han, but she tells him that he didn’t really kill Yo Han. Yo Han would have lived, but the Headhunter finished him off in order to use his brain for his experimental brain surgery to save his son, Ba Reum. And the neurosurgeon didn’t save Ba Reum because he loved him, but because he thought the psychopath gene he carried was superior to regular people, and wanted his line to survive. Ugh. Ick. And also makes madam secretary’s wish to get rid of all these psychokiller people who think other people are ants or mice sound suddenly reasonable.

Mouse is the name of the show and we find Ba Reum a figurative mouse, literal experiment, sending himself into the snake or serial killer’s lair, all in order to kill him. Everything comes full circle from the beginning shot to that scene.

Ba Reum’s death scene is the best part, though. He dies in the church he once visited as a kid, angry with God and begging God to stop him from being a monster. Ba Reum appears to see his younger self in the pew there and gives him a hug, comforting him. Ba Reum tells the boy that God did answer his prayer: He now has feelings, especially of remorse and is full of repentance. He no longer has the will or desire to kill. Ba Reum dies at peace with himself and with God. I am not sure if he just goes to the church in his mind or actually gets to go there. Think the former.

Although I am so glad that Ba Reum came to repentance and that he does say sorry to both Go and Bong Yi, I wish the writers would have found a way to indicate that Jesus is really the reason why he would be forgiven. We are called by God to repent of our sins, yes, but the real reason we are forgiven is because Jesus Christ lived a perfect life in our place and also suffered and died for us, taking the punishment for all of our sins upon himself, and the defeated death by rising from the dead in the resurrection. Christ atoned for us, something we can never do, no matter how much we may repent. It’s a sobering thought.

Detective Go does give a nod to the Gospel message, though, by asking himself if God gave Ba Reum punishment or salvation? With a wistful smile on his face, we can guess he hopes it’s the latter, and perhaps it’s a bit much to expect a mainstream TV show to really dig into the person of Jesus. It’s rarely done; sometimes Christian movies don’t even directly talk about Him or explain how it is that He is our Savior. Anyway, I give the show ten out of ten just for all that, and coming so close to sharing the Gospel message, and it is a tough message for us to swallow sometimes, that anyone, anyone who repents and has faith in Jesus can be saved. We think certain sins should be unforgivable, but we easily forget that God is holy and sees any sin, no matter how small or insignificant to us, as enough to damn a person to hell eternally. Jesus Christ is the only way any of us can be saved, from a bubblegum thief to a rapist, to a literal headhunter.

Be Free: Conspiracies are Real

Happy Saturday afternoon all! Just in case you’re finally starting to question the C-word pandemic and the illogicalness of it all, here’s some links to Amazing Polly videos. It’s ok to realize the conspiracy theorists are right. We will try not to say “I told you so” … well, not too often. Stepping away from the MSM narrative, and even much of the alternate narratives is freeing. Rarely do I watch or even follow the news anymore. When encountering people hysterical about this cold virus, I have pity for them, real pity, because they’ve been brainwashed to live in fear. Sadly, one can only be reached until one starts to question, so I’m sharing this for you, the questioners, who will of course be very skeptical of what Polly is saying–as you should be! But the real question is, why are or weren’t you skeptical of all the experts and non-conspiracy theorists? Why do they have your trust? That question is what led me on my own journey of realizing that we have and are being lied to on so many levels, especially when it comes to health. Not all of it is malicious, much is stupidity, for we are surely far dumber than our ancestors, but some is malicious, and conspiracies are real.

The best thing Polly talks about is people returning to churches and faith, despite concerted efforts to keep people from worshipping. God is working! His truth is shining in a time when everyone else is speaking lies. God is using these people’s nefarious plans against them. And I have no doubt He will continue to do so.

Mouse, eps. 16 & 17

A lot of weirdness with this show, but it’s all coming together. As Ba Reum sorts everything out about himself and Yo Han, the details are all getting filled in. However, I may be wrong in Yo Han’s motivation as a genius to stop killer Ba Reum: It appears there some shadowy organization called OZ behind all of this. An organization bafflingly covering up Ba Reum’s crimes, and also keeping tabs on him. Turns out they kept tabs on Yo Han. Dr. Daniel Lee, who is still inexplicably alive, appears to not be working with OZ, but maybe once was, and the suspicious detective I had my eye on is connected with OZ. OZ is either part of or just a nickname for the Ministry of Science and Technology. Possibly. We shall see.

The good thing is, that the other main characters like Detective Go (love that man!) and the ever spunky Bong Yi are now also coming to the realization that Yo Han may be innocent and that they haven’t got the killer after all. What both will do when they discover it is Ba Reum, I have no idea.

As for PD Choi, she has a new babysitter for her child, the wife of the Headhunter serial killer, and, if Yo Han is really her son, not Ba Reum, biological grandmother to said child. PD Choi herself is trying to show her former lover innocent, mostly so that people stop treating her kid so poorly, but I think also she feels it’s the right thing to do, to set the record straight.

We learn a bit more about Ba Reum’s past. AKA Jae Hoon, he may not be quite the out-of-control killer we all thought he was. That is, he’s not and has not just killed for no reason. At least one murder has been in revenge for the man who killed his mother. Turns out, too, that Ba Reum and Yo Han crossed paths as children and Ba Reum was impressed by the latter’s smarts and kindness, wanting to be like him.

Where is all of this going? For now, it appears the big twist is that Ba Reum and Yo Han were part of an experiment. True, we know they were part of Dr. Lee’s study, but this is something bigger, probably, quite probably a grand experiment thought out and orchestrated by a person who is real dad to one of them: The Headhunter, the neurosurgeon Han Seo Joon. I really hope that’s the case, because he’s got a creepy good presence and makes a great villain.

Hoping Go and Bong Yi take all the killers down, that Go marries PD Choi already, and that Bong Yi starts a completely new and better life elsewhere. Lab rats no more, let them live their lives in freedom! And Ba Reum, he’s got remorse and I do hope he finds redemption, though it will likely come with his death, as redemptions often are wont to do.

Still really liking the show, but there’s a lot of busyness that abounds, and I almost wish they’d do away with some of procedural stuff and get more to the heart of the matter: Are we dictated by our genes, or by what we do? Or both? It’s there, the question is there, just hovering in the background. Ba Reum now is governed by both things, though perhaps he wasn’t before his brain surgery. It has to be pretty awful to become self-aware and find out oneself is a psycho serial killer. The stuff of nightmares. But that is what sin really is, a nightmare, and it’s in all of us. And only by God’s grace can we overcome it.

Mouse, episodes 9-11

Spoilers aplenty.

Let me begin with my ultimate theory on this show, which I haven’t yet given up on, despite much evidence to the contrary. It is this: Lee Seung Gi’s character, Jung Ba Reum is the serial killer the detectives are hunting for. He’s either the real son of Han Seo Joon, the Headhunter, or the other baby who’s mom also participated in Dr. Daniel Lee’s research on the psychopath gene. His real self is the psychopath serial killer.

In episode 9 we are given more insight into what happened to Ba Reum. By a series of quite interesting incidents, the Headhunter serial killer, also brilliant neurosurgeon, was called in to perform brain surgery on Ba Reum to save his life. As his brain was handy, Yo Han’s brain was used. Since Yo Han was in theory the killer Detective Go and everyone was hunting for–the one who began as a child with a serious beef with God, Ba Reum now has the mind of a serial killer and doctor. He’s brilliant and makes a great detective. He’s also now plagued with thoughts of killing people and is starting to act on it.

Here’s where my theory comes in: I think that Yo Han is another misdirect by the writers. I think he’s actually innocent, and may not even be the Headhunter’s son, but another boy who was simply a genius. Do I have evidence for this? He told his mom, “Your son is a killer,” not “I am a killer.” PD Choi had a love life and a baby with him and states they are the same. How exactly they are the same, I don’t know. The important thing is she really doesn’t believe he’s a psychopathic killer, not deep down in her heart. The three biggest reasons I have for thinking that Ba Reum, not Yo Han, is actually our killer is that 1, Ba Reum’s personality didn’t seem quite genuine at the beginning of the series–a somewhat dumb, simple guy with a heart of gold, and out of sync with the gritty world around him. Could he be putting on a show, much like his magic show he performs at the prison? 2, and this is a long shot, but significant: In the scene where Yo Han attacks Ba Reum, we get a glimpse of Ba Reum’s face just before they fight. The expression is not the Ba Reum we know, but an intelligent man, eager for the fight, a horrible killer who, I think, Yo Han has actually been trying to find and to stop. Like Detective Go, Yo Han surely thought such a man should die and probably that beating his head in with a hammer was even too good for him. This relates to 3: for some reason, Yo Han had a collage of pictures of Ba Reum in the secret room in his basement. Inexplicably, Ba Reum knows about this room and sees the collage–that, I don’t think has ever been explained yet–and also seems to know exactly why Yo Han has such a collection. Yo Han has perhaps been hunting him, the genius hunting the psycho.

So Ba Reum thinks he now has a serial killer’s brain in his head, but really he was the serial killer and now he has a partly good and intelligent brain taking over his body, fighting against his desire to kill, kill, kill. The wanting to kill simply comes out because it’s the larger part of his brain, for now, and something that Ba Reum originally hid from everyone, except his victims. Ok, probably it’s not how the story’s going to end up, but I like the theory, and I’m sticking to it for now because it’s more intriguing to me than the more simple good guy being taken over by serial killer brain.

To the episodes:

We are now getting a lot of backstory and ends starting to tie up in a very confusing web. Episode 9 basically confirms that the lifetime imprisoned Headhunter did indeed do brain surgery on him and used Yo Han’s brain. In addition, with Ba Reum’s genius he’s able to figure out that the Headhunter wasn’t just killing people, but was doing experiments on them. Basically, humans are rats to this awful neurosurgeon who thinks he’s God.

In addition, we find out more about the Headhunter’s past, and insight into both his creepiness and his genius. Turns out Dr. Daniel Lee is very smart, too, and helped him solve a difficult medical case. Daniel was a janitor at the hospital at the time and admires the neurosurgeon. The two become friends and the Headhunter give Daniel the idea to search out not a good gene, but a bad gene, a psychopath gene, and use that to rid the world of bad people. Later, the Headhunter regrets setting him on such a course–he really didn’t think he’d succeed at it. The Headhunter also blames Detective Go, the child, for ruining his experiments, as it was child Go who helped the police catch him.

Episode 9 deals largely with the knot killer, who everyone thought was a police detective who also has a very suspicious lawyer son. This knot killer may or may not be the same person as the one with the beef with God and who sets up his victims to be giving the finger to the cross. It’s confusing to me, and sometimes it seems it’s meant to be the same person, and other times not. In any case, Detective Go takes the fall for the murder of the officer everyone thought was the knot killer. He’s happy to go in, so that Detective Park Du Seok’s wife doesn’t have to go to prison. Detective Park is the one who was trying to catch the Headhunter 25 years ago. The Headhunter took his kids as consequence and killed them. However, this is also mixed up with the knot killer who supposedly was the one who really killed his daughter (the son was killed by the Headhunter). Whew! Confused yet?

But the officer is not the knot killer, it is actually his son, which, if you’re paying attention, doesn’t come as a great surprise. Ba Reum with his genius figures this out and in addition figures out that Detective Park’s wife did not kill the officer in the hospital, and neither did Detective Go. Turns out the officer buried a different little girl that his son, the lawyer, and the real knot killer actually killed, and he pretended she was Detective Park’s daughter. So where’s Detective Park’s daughter buried? We don’t know. Is she still alive? We don’t know. So, Detective Go gets released from jail, foiling the plans he had to murder the Headhunter in prison. Ah, well.

The lawyer, Woo Byung Chul, son of the police officer and, drumroll, a woman who participated in Dr. Daniel Lee’s study into the psycho path gene, is the knot killer. It’s implied he’s also the cross killer and that Yo Han is innocent. I think they are mixing up cases or something, but I do agree that Yo Han may be innocent. If so, how does that explain what’s happening in Ba Reum’s head? See my theory above.

We also get some interesting stuff with PD Choi and the Headhunter. She went to interview him in prison at one point and also planned to kill him there, but chickened out. Is she a former victim of his? At one point, in talking with Detective Go about the Headhunter’s son, Yo Han, and their relationship, she says, “he’s like me.” Interesting.

Ba Reum is seriously struggling not to kill animals and people. His cat’s afraid of him and he even tries to strangle Detective Go, who comes to his house drunk. He also understands that the memories he has of the yellow-jacketed kid, the one in the beginning who brings the mouse to the snake’s cage is not him. He bases this assumption on a picture his aunt gives him. It’s of him as a little boy in Kindergartener and the boy is the not the same one he remembers. Not sure about that one, as a first person memory, you wouldn’t really even see your own face, so if he’s seeing it as a third person memory, the little boy wouldn’t be him anyway, but, meh, details. There’s no reason to think that little kid is a psycho, just that he somehow had the mouse that the Headhunter did brain surgery on to make it more aggressive. Who the older girl is that stomped on the mouse, saying it needed to die, we still don’t know.

Episode 10 is much backstory, too, dealing a lot with how parents handle their psychotic kids. The mother of the lawyer knot killer didn’t end up very well, she ends up dead at the hands of her own son, who grew up to have his dad, the officer, cover for him so he could kill a lot of women. It’s disturbing stuff, basically because the mom does try to kill both her and her son to preserve other lives, and also because she has a graphic connection with the Headhunter’s pregnant wife at the end. They definitely are not short on the horror in this show.

We are happy to find that Detective Go is still alive and that his friend didn’t strangle him to death or pummel him with a rock. No, Ba Reum pummeled his own hand to get himself to stop choking the detective. Go really has no clue something strange is going on with Ba Reum, and it may take a lot to convince him that Ba Reum is or is now a killer that must be stopped by him.

Interestingly, Ba Reum goes to church to ask God to stop him killing, much like our psycho boy from long ago, the presumed cross killer. The cross killer is back, but it could be a copycat or accomplice, and in the end it’s a bit muddled with the knot killer. Go and Ba Reum definitely now have evidence against the lawyer, who is now apparently guilty of both the knot and the cross murders and someday I’ll watch it all again to figure out the connection, but while Go is actually fine that Yo Han wasn’t a killer, Ba Reum is not. Of course, this is because if Yo Han is not a killer, what then is going on in Ba Reum’s head? Aha. See my idea above.

The end has a great villain scene where Ba Reum confronts the lawyer in a warehouse and gets him to reveal his true self. Song Jae Hee does a great job in this scene, using all the creepiness he can. With his good side angered, Ba Reum’s bad side takes over and he actually kills Jae Hee. In episode 11, Ba Reum tries to turn himself in, but it doesn’t work out the way he wants–Detective Go and forensics go to investigate the warehouse, but there’s no evidence of a murder there! Still, Ba Reum is certain he did it. He wasn’t hallucinating. But, with video footage of the lawyer escaping the country surfacing, there’s nothing Ba Reum can do. Everyone just thinks he’s having complications from his brain surgery. Well, he is, just not in the way they think.

Ba Reum is now assigned officially to the Evidence room team along with Detectives Go and Park. It’s a recipe for something, but I’m not sure what.

In a twist, we find out why there was no evidence against Ba Reum: Dr. Daniel Lee is somehow still alive and has been keeping tabs on him! When Ba Reum asks him, didn’t Yo Han kill him, Dr. Lee brushes the question aside as irrelevant to the moment. So! Considering my theory above, let me add to that: What if Yo Han was working with Dr. Lee to track serial killers–because he’s a genius, not a psycho–and what if they were both tracking Ba Reum back in the day? Just, ideas. At any rate, Dr. Lee gives Ba Reum an opportunity to become Dexter: to be a serial killer that hunts and kills other serial killers. Use his instinct to kill for a sort of good. Ba Reum tells him he’s crazy, but the rest of the episode he’s clearly in a losing battle against the evil side of his brain.

Not only is Ba Reum clearly harming his cat and not remembering it, he now does remember killing his bird in the cage while recovering in the hospital and is horrified. His aunt has a son, his cousin, that he doesn’t remember, but bonds with instantly and stupidly takes the kid from his babysitter to come over to his house, hang out, and see the cat. Never do such a thing without getting parent approval, never, never! Of course the awful happens, Ba Reum snaps into his psycho mode and it appears he will kill the boy.

We also get to spend some time with Bong Yi, who wants to deal with her rapist herself. She doesn’t want Detective Go or Ba Reum’s help, and she’s determined to make that man avoid her. But the tables are turned at the end when she realizes the predator is a pedophile–she’s too old for him know and he’s hunting a young girl in her neighborhood. Bong Yi valiantly steps into action to save the girl’s life and she puts up quite a fight. The ending scene is her fading into darkness, asking the man standing over her to help the child. The man is Ba Reum and it appears he may have taken Dr. Lee’s advice to heart and is planning to focus his killing instinct on the monsters who harm other people.

Whew! There’s so, so much to this show, it’s hard to keep up. The beginning of episode 11 also has a great scene between our cross killer as a boy and another boy who is good who he admires and wants to be like. Are these two our genius and our psycho? It appears so. I’m curious to see if this psycho boy is actually the cross killer or if he only could have been and ended up choosing a different path. Maybe that’s to come. We’ll see. There’s also another detective acting very suspiciously who is possible another serial killer or maybe just a minion of the Headhunter. We’ll see. Can’t wait to watch episode 12 tonight. I’m sure it will bring all my theories to ruin. Oh well, that’s what great stories do. The acting is all spot on, and the directing good too, only one almost doesn’t notice it trying to keep up with the web of a plot.

Forgiveness Is Real

Happy Easter weekend. Jesus is risen! Forgiveness of sin is real, it’s a real thing, and the greatest miracle this world will ever know, aside from creation. It’s staggering to just really think and consider on what Jesus did–he led a perfect life for us and then paid the punishment for all of our sins, an innocent man! But he wasn’t just a man, but also God and he died once for all mankind. Our creator loved us so much that even when we rebelled against him in evil, he made plans to save us, and those plans cost him much. Redemption and forgiveness don’t come cheap. They required a blood sacrifice, and Jesus Christ, God’s Son, willingly paid that price for us. What a marvel. What a true marvel and reason for hope in every day we live! We gain heaven, when what we deserve is hell. And heaven is our true home, not this fickle, uncaring, corrupt world. Forgiveness is real! I am forgiven! You are forgiven! And we are all free to go and live in love, charity, and kindness. Death no longer holds a sting, but is now an entry into a new, wonderful life. He is risen! Can’t say it enough. Happy Easter!

Kdrama Mouse, episodes 1-4 review

Spoilers ahead.

With one of the most fascinating opening scenes I have ever watched, Mouse starring Lee Seung Gi has me hooked. Murder mysteries are favorite genre of mine, and as a subset, hunt-for-serial-killer stories are too. These kinds of stories have a lot to offer, from smart detectives, to puzzle box plots, to universal themes surrounding life and death, sin and redemption. The downside is that these stories often glorify murders and serial killers, making them appear much more important than they really are. But, it’s like a magic trick, the trick seems awesome until it’s explained, and then often it seems quite dumb. So it can be with the detective figuring out the criminal, once he or she has figured them out, the prowess of the killer automatically shrinks. So it’s a downside that often has an upside in the end.

Like other Kdramas such as Hello Monster and Flower of Evil, Mouse presents a South Korea awash in serial killers and psychopaths. We get what is often a staple in this genre, an intellectual or professor who studies serial killers. In this tale it is Dr. Daniel Lee (Jo Jae Yun), a doctor and researcher who comes back to Korea from overseas. We soon find he’s really not that smart, as it’s revealed his longtime friend is a serial killer who actually killed his sister and pretended it was robbers. Unsurprisingly, the good doctor only makes it a few episodes. The most important thing about Dr. Lee is that he has isolated a psychopath gene and can predict if one’s baby in the womb has it. However, despite its 99% accuracy, the remaining one percent is a big factor, the kid could actually just be a genius. We are shown a couple of mothers who are debating aborting their children due to getting this test done, and of course they decide to let the kids live, because that’s what any good mother should do.

As with Hello Monster and Flower of Evil, Mouse plays heavily with the concept of psychopathy versus genius and the extent to which a true psychopath who is also a murderer can be redeemed in some way. The main killer in the show appears deeply troubled by his sin that he apparently has no control over. He has to go out and kill people and blames God, the Christian God, for this. His problem with God is very emotional, which is interesting on the face of it, and doesn’t seem to fit with an emotionless psychopath. The opening scene with the mouse and the snake is frightening and awesome, and we are led to believe that this little kid who puts the mouse into the snake’s cage is the killer the detectives will be hunting for.

The writing in this drama will either turn out to be amazing or a let down. It all depends how events and characters play themselves out. These beginning episodes are a knot of stories, characters and plots that will be unwound over time. Misdirection is used heavily. Our main hero is Detective Go Mu Chi (Lee Hee Jun), who is immediately likable and also infuriating. He’s his own best friend and enemy. We are introduced to the detective as a child, where his family comes up against the murderous father of our current serial killer and gets slaughtered and/or permanently maimed. As each family member protects the youngest, Mu Chi is the one who survives physically unscathed, but certainly not otherwise. He is the typical detective, bad past and and suffering from alcoholism, brash and brilliant, and not one to follow the rules. He’s the kind of person who goes around promising the victims’ families that he will someday kill the murderer with his own two hands, because official justice is too slow, if it comes at all.

These first few episodes the audience has been mainly figuring out what’s going and trying to figure out what will happen next, and especially how the star, Lee Seung Gi will fit in into all of this. Lee’s character is Jung Ba Reum, and he’s a neighborhood beat policemen with a heart of gold, but a person who also seems a bit slow on the uptake, certainly not as smart as Detective Go. That’s what we’re led to believe, anyway. We are presented with two babies who have the psychopath gene who are now grown up men in their twenties. It is implied that one of them is the serial killer and true psychopath, and one of them is the one percent, the genius. Dr. Sung Yo Han (Kwon Hwa Woon) is the son of the original serial killer from 25 years ago and he fits the psychopath bill almost entirely, showing little to no emotion. We are actually shown him killing people, but again, it’s a bit muddled with misdirection. The other child surely must be Jung Ba Reum, and he must be something more, because the heart-of-gold thing is just too difficult to believe in a series such as this. At the end of episode 4, we are shown that Ba Reum may actually be the serial killer or another killer. He is holding a child hostage and we’ve already learned the killer is trying to manipulate Detective Go using same child.

Mouse, the title comes from the opening scene with the snake and the mouse but also from the genre. Serial killer hunts are often described as “cat and mouse games,” usually with the serial killer as the cat and the detective as the mouse or vice versa. This story will clearly be a bit different as it is the mouse that is ultimately going to be the hunter, and it’s implied that the snake or cat won’t have a chance in the end. The mouse is likely only one person: The child with the genius gene. My theory is that it is Jung Be Reum, and although he will first seem like either the or a serial killer, his real goal is to entrap the real killer. Even with all the brutal killings, his genius will probably, even if he saves the populace in the end, come across as anathema, simply because he could so easily use his genius for evil. That’s my take on the story so far. Hoping Detective Go really shows his smarts and turns out to be the true hero of the story, but we’ll see. He could very well be the mouse, too, an ordinary human triumphing over the too-brilliant psychopaths. There are also several other young men who could all be the killer or killers. Again, the misdirection is heavy, but the specifics of it will only become clear after more episodes come out. More reviews to come on this fascinating show.

Reading/watching updates

Since I haven’t yet finished any book or show, I don’t have a review this week.

Currently Reading: The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis and enjoying it immensely. Also reading On the Wings of a Falcon by Cynthia Voigt and unsettled by how violent it is. Maybe violence is more for the young, I don’t know. Not sure I will finish it, but I have read it a few times in the past and found it a great adventure story then. Stalling on The Wanderer by Fanny Burney, but that okay, it’s going to take me awhile to get through.

Currently Watching: All Kdramas. Rewatching Goblin with a group of friend. It’s slower than I remember, but I forgot how hilarious the bromance between Goblin and Reaper is. Watching Good-bye Mr. Black, which is a revenge story. Most of the first episodes are set in Thailand, which is kind of cool. Watching Mouse starring Lee Seung Gi, because he’s awesome, but it’s a pretty bleak and brutal story so far. Although I love serial killer hunt and cat-and-mouse thrillers, not sure I’m going to stick with it, but we’ll see. The opening scene with the snake and the mouse is one of the most memorable opening scenes I’ve ever watched. Definitely a lot of potential in the show, great themes, great set up, and much food for thought, even if it’s dismal thoughts.

Reviews: House of Salt and Sorrows/Christmas at Wickly

What fun it is in this modern era when there are so many wonderful retellings of the old fairy tales. These books are a treat to read, though sometimes they miss the mark. House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin Craig has so much going for it, and although I really enjoyed it, I’m not sure I recommend it. The story has a maritime setting on a series of islands, the salt, the sea, etc., but it didn’t really become nautical in the sense of being really firmly set in a world of ships and sailing. The twelve girls are all daughters of a wealthy landowner/governer of the island chain and have little to do with actual sailing trips, fishing, and the like. It could have gone much farther in the world of the sea, and also the quasi-Greek mythological religion the world follows. Still, what was there was adequate for the story. Our heroine is one of the 12 sisters. She’s in the middle and her name is Annaleigh.

Twelve main characters plus any additional ones are tough to keep track of, but in this tale, four of the sisters are already dead at the beginning of the story. Wisely the author groups the rest of the sisters, making them easier to remember. The story has a lot of stops and starts and never really flowed well, but the ghostly figures in the beginning didn’t prepare me for the end. Although the story ended happy, the incident in the lighthouse was just…icky, for lack of a better word. Icky, and for no apparent reason. There was just a lot of gore and grossness at the end, which ended up being too much for me. The actual adaptation of the Grimm tale was mostly in the latter half, and it was when their father finally made the wager that whoever figured out the mystery of how his daughters wore out their shoes every night would gain his estate, that I realized how uneven the story was.

Where it went wrong was the world building, something I, too, have trouble with. The stuff on their immediate region was good, but a full description of the world was lacking, or perhaps it was too blink-and-you’ll-miss-it. The ickiness related to one of the deities in another province who was not detailed nearly enough, and that’s why it just doesn’t fit at the end. Also, I expected fairies in the story, that is, I expected them to be the villains, and was disappointed in that.

All in all it’s an adequate retelling, but it could have been so much more. I did enjoy the use of Fisher, but I also didn’t think the character really got his due, either. The romantic hero was very appealing, but we didn’t get to know him that well. Fairy tales are hard to retell in some ways, because they are short and often have very blank characters. Sometime this bleeds into the longer adaptations. Also the dancing was severely lacking. I wanted more time at the balls and there just seemed to be a lot of Annaleigh thinking, which is of course what young women often do, but it doesn’t drive stories along very well.

Craig did a good job of portraying an estate constantly in mourning. The behaviors of many characters can be excused largely due to the tragedies they’ve experienced, so it’s not a wonder in that sense that it takes people a long time to realize something is amiss. The ultimate villain at the end…meh. I suppose the lesson is you never get what you want no matter how clever a deal you make, especially if it’s a deal with a devil. Not a bad story, but I wouldn’t recommend it, and I’ve read a better adaptation of the fairy tale at some point in my life and hopefully one of these days I’ll remember the title.

A Regency Romance Review

Continuing with the A Regency Holiday book of five Regency romances, story four was actually quite good. I wish it was a longer story. Judith Nelson is the writer, and was excited to find that one of her longer novels was in the surprise bag I bought last summer. Christmas at Wickly stars the Earl of Wickham, who is in his thirties, and a twenty-eight year old heroine who believes herself firmly on the shelf. She’s not wrong, in that day and age women often married in their late teens, but Miss Worthington lives fully up to her name and her humor and capableness convince the earl that she’s the one for him. All this is planned in advance by a wily grandma who wants to see their family’s inheritance continue and not go on to lesser family members. In her eyes, it is essential the earl marry and start having children as soon as possible. She’s not wrong, but I’m also glad that she wants him to truly be in love.

The romance is quiet, just two people spending a lot of time together and falling in love while doing it. Somehow the love surprises both sexes and Nelson makes it exciting to both of them, as well as sweet to read. They are both total dorks and also snobs after a fashion. It will be great to see what she does with a longer story. The story outlines four key points for a good match: Humor, companionship, similar perspectives and/or temperament, and time together to make the relationship happen. As Wickham dismisses the other, younger women one by one, I just think of Austen’s Mr. Knightley proclaiming that “men of sense don’t want silly wives.” In this story, that’s true, although our hero quite sillily makes a habit of stealing mistletoe so he’s not forced to kiss anyone under it. It’s hard to imagine societal rules so strict one couldn’t refuse a kiss, but I suppose if a gentleman is faced with having to refuse a lady, he would just rather avoid the situation altogether. And that’s rather gentlemanly of him, even if it also makes him silly.