“Kill Me, Heal Me” Ep 20: You are Me, I am You

I can measure my enjoyment of a show by how sad I feel when the final credits roll. By that standard, I adored Kill Me, Heal Me—every magnificently deranged minute.

The finale contains a few surprises, most notably two short encounters with Mr. X. I can still imagine seven different ways for the show to end. But I’m glad it’s ending on a high note, leaving me wanting more instead of overstaying its welcome.

kill me heal me episode 20 mr x optPersonally, I would have liked to see Mr. X interrupt the stockholders meeting in a top hat and opera cloak to turn the ballots into doves, which would then fly north over the border, land and transform into flower boys who spread a new dawn of peace and love throughout the Korean peninsula. The major stockholders then realize the futility of living and dying by quarterly reports, and start a Buddhist monastery distinguished by the silk top hats the monks wear while chanting.

But despite lacking any of those developments, episode 20 did send us off in style—the style of a nineteenth-century Parisian man about town.

By the time a show wraps up, most viewers have already decided whether they love it or not. For that reason, the final episode doesn’t have to astound anyone. But it’s all too easy to produce a finale that’s confusing, or fails to resolve key conflicts (or, worse, resolves them in a way that betrays the story’s themes).

Fortunately, episode 20 of Kill Me, Heal Me wraps up everything important, although they have too much story here to fit comfortably into one episode. Given the wealth of material, the writer and director make the right choice and focus on Cha Do-Hyun and Oh Ri-Jin’s confrontation with the past.

Their journey has had an uncanny quality since the beginning, and it continues here. The finale feels like the final leg of a journey through a fairy tale forest. Even more than in previous episodes, we see important scenes through the lens of fantasy or hallucination. We see it when Cha Do-Hyun and Shin Se-Ki part ways in that misty darkness of flying dust motes, and when “Nana”—the little girl Cha Do-Hyun—seamlessly transforms from Ji Sung to child actress Kim Amy to talk to Oh Ri-Jin.

And then there’s the fabulous Mr. X, who pops up looking like a human incarnation of the strange Gothic energies in Kill Me, Heal Me (below). He’s an antique magician, a conjurer, who will delight viewers who get the joke—while irritating or baffling viewers looking for realism and rationality.

If you’re uncomfortable with Kill Me, Heal Me’s Edgar Allen Poe meets Cabinet of Dr. Caligari style, this episode won’t improve your opinion. When the writer at Samsoon Down the Rabbit Hole comments that Kill Me, Heal Me is “fairly mediocre” and “not entertaining,” I attribute most of the comment to taste. Some people like Gothic, some don’t.

But although I disagree with a lot of what Samsoon says, the post got me thinking about how to define “good K-drama.” The Samsoon definition puts a pretty equal emphasis on story, acting and production values. By those standards, Kill Me, Heal Me doesn’t meet Samsoon’s criteria for “good.” And I have to agree that Kill Me, Heal Me‘s weakest area is technical things like editing, sound quality and camera work—all that stuff that comprises “production values.”

The final episode offers one egregious example—the lighting in the riverside farewell scene. It’s dark, really dark. I can barely see the figures in many frames. This might be the director’s decision, but it’s more likely a result of budget and time constraints. The lack of polish in that scene is a disappointment, because I want to see the leads.

kill me heal me episode 20 hwang jung eum ji sung kiss riverside large optBut bad lighting is an inconvenience, not a fatal flaw. (Check it out above and below—luckily they turned the lights on for the rest of the series.) Production values aren’t as important to me as an interesting story and characters. Hyde, Jekyll, Me‘s excellent production values don’t make that show watchable, for instance. The episodes I’ve seen were strangely static, lacking in energy, plot or purpose. To pose another example, 2013’s Heirs had beautifully polished editing—really a step up from the usual—but that didn’t make the story less predictable.

In fact, I have a sideways affection for mediocre production values. A film or show’s technical quality correlates to its budget and schedule. If you spend more money, you get better quality crew and equipment, and the more time you have, the more you can polish the final product. Since K-dramas are notoriously made on modest budgets in absurdly short periods of time, they can’t compete with American cable channels for technical quality.

But I care more about things that can’t be bought. No matter how much money you spend, you never know if a story will connect with viewers. And isn’t the goal of story-telling to connect?

I admit, my definition of “good K-drama” is very writer-centered. If I were a professional lighting designer, I might have different priorities. But I’m a writer, and I measure a show’s success mostly in how creative it is and the risks it takes.

“Creativity” and “risks” are pretty subjective, but Kill Me, Heal Me more than satisfies me on both counts. The basic premise of this story was one giant pile of risk, to paraphrase Shin Se-Ki. It sounded like a guaranteed failure, even before running into epic casting difficulties. And then the writer stuffed the show to the brim with formulas, using three or four familiar elements in places other writers would use one. It shouldn’t have worked.

It did work, though. It worked for reasons that are evident here in the finale: its fairy tale structure, fantasy elements, and sympathetic characters.

The fairy tale structure here doesn’t allow much room for the “real” world, and we only have one short scene to settle who will control Seung Jin Group in future. We have a sense that Cha Do-Hyun doesn’t care if he takes control of the company. His dislike of his uncle comes mostly from his uncle’s involvement in Min Seo-Yeon’s death 21 years ago. Just as when Shin Se-Ki first shanghaied Cha Do-Hyun back to Seoul, our hero remains uninterested in corporate power.

kill me heal me episode 20 hwang jung eum ji sung shin seki hospital large optOur hero’s ambition is to be healthy again. And so this episode lavishes time on his confrontations with the remaining alters and with his father.

His father! I was resigned to his waking up, against all medical probability, but I wasn’t looking forward to it. The father’s reappearance worked better a little than I expected, though, because he shows up in an uncanny way, like a ghost. He doesn’t wake up groggy and confused about what year it is, or if he does, we don’t see it. His loving mother and Shin Hwa-Ran don’t run to his side—or if they do, we don’t see it.

Instead, he wakes and asks to see Cha Do-Hyun and Oh Ri-Jin immediately. In his two scenes, he gives off the vibe of a man who knows he will die soon, and has the gift of visiting earth one last time to apologize to the people he’s harmed. He has one mission, to ask for forgiveness, and in this single-mindedness he resembles a ghost more than a human.

It’s enormously satisfying that Cha Do-Hyun and Oh Ri-Jin don’t forgive him (above). In too many K-dramas the evil parents and grandparents magically turn nice in the final episode, and all is forgotten. But Kill Me, Heal Me doesn’t try to sell us unicorns and rainbows. I believe the father’s sincerity, but I also believe that Cha Do-Hyun and Oh Ri-Jin are terrified of the man. They’re honest enough to know forgiveness would be a lie.

But episode 20 gives us not just one father, but two, if we include Mr. X.

Cha Do-Hyun is dreading seeing his father, dreading asking about Min Seo-Yeon’s death. In episode 19, he worries that Shin Se-Ki will kill Cha Jun-Pyo if he has any pretext. He’s concerned that Oh Ri-Jin’s feelings about the past could trigger Shin Se-Ki.

These worries cause him to lose consciousness before getting to the hospital. When we see him again, he’s the little girl with the teddy bear Nana (above). This is the first time in the series another person has spotted the little girl, so it’s the first time we see Ji Sung in this role and he’s acts eerily like the shy seven-year-old in the basement. I just want to pat him on the head and give him a cookie.

The little girl explains Mr. X to Oh Ri-Jin. He’s an imaginary father, but not our hero’s father. He’s Oh Ri-Jin’s father. We learn from “Nana” and the subsequent conversation with Mr. X that he has been around since the beginning of Cha Do-Hyun’s dissociation. Along with inventing Perry Park out of the decent parts of Cha Jun-Pyo, Cha Do-Hyun also invented a superhero dad for Oh Ri-Jin—the dad that could rescue her from the basement.

Oh Ri-Jin’s dead father has been a source of online discussion for weeks, and the mysterious Mr. X doesn’t leave us any wiser as to who he was in reality.

But in a trippy, hallucinogenic way, Mr. X makes perfect sense. He fits with how the young Cha Do-Hyun wanted to transform himself into a powerful protector for Oh Ri-Jin. He fits with Cha Do-Hyun’s own need for a good dad. He fits with the fairy tale style of story-telling, by arriving supernaturally to remind Cha Do-Hyun of things he already knows (above). And from another angle, the fact that he’s an alter ego of Cha Do-Hyun makes Mr. X a bit of a parody of the complicated faux-cest scenarios we spent February worrying about.

Mr. X doesn’t make much logical sense. He was created 21 years ago, like “Nana,” but like her, he hasn’t shown himself until now. What exactly brought him out? Couldn’t Cha Do-Hyun have used some supernatural help in episodes 15 or 16, too?

It’s easy to conclude that the writer couldn’t figure out who Mr. X was until finishing the script last week. But even if that’s the case (as it well could be), his identity is still an elegant solution to the question of who is X. Though he doesn’t make logical sense, he makes a lot of illogical sense.

Mr. X fits with the illogic of the show by looking totally out of place, and being aware of it. He knows he’s a hallucination, and a weird one at that. “I’m just glad I’m not Superman,” he says. His mysterious black briefcase and question—will you look inside?—sums up the central conflict in Kill Me, Heal Me : the choice about whether or not to look at the memories of trauma.

kill me heal me episode 20 rings large optOne thing we never learn is what Grandma MacBeth or Oh Ri-Jin’s parents think of this relationship. We can imagine they’ll be distressed when they first learn of it, because it will bring back bad memories. But the sense at the end of Kill Me, Heal Me is that our main characters are free of caring what other people think any more. Cha Do-Hyun makes that clear when he tells his uncle that DID isn’t comparable to his uncle’s embezzlement. He doesn’t care who knows.

I have mixed feelings about “one year later” epilogues. They mess with the Aristotelian unities, or rather, they mess with the unities even more than everything else in K-dramas.

But this ending makes more sense than most. I’m glad to see Oh Ri-On wrote that novel (titled Kill Me, Heal Me), and amused that he’s still hanging out in bookstores to meet his fans. He’s still giving out fake names for himself, and still haunted by the name Ahn Yo-Na.

kill me heal me episode 20 park seo joon bookstore optIt also makes sense to find Cha Do-Hyun chopping wood at Ssang Ri. What better “treatment” than to live in the country and work part-time for the Ohs? Since Cha Do-Hyun’s grandmother and mom never showed any compassion for him, I can understand him pretending to be abroad. And he might be the heir to Seung Jin, but he never really wanted to work for the company. Dabbling in business via phone calls to Director Ahn is about the right amount of “work.”

And if he’s terrible at things like chopping wood and brewing beer, fortunately he has his chaebol fortune to make up for it. Ri-Jin’s mom adores him, and Mr. Oh will come around too. I’ll never understand the K-drama propensity to depict characters who have serious relationships in secret—why don’t the Ohs know?—but given how suspicious Ri-Jin’s parents were of “that old chaebol,” maybe our Do-Hyun’s on the right track. Coming out as the old chaebol would just lead to, well, drama.

The quirkiest thing about the ending is that Cha Do-Hyun is living under the name Perry Park. After all the sturm und drang about his names and identities, his name is a source of freedom now. And though Perry’s a natural choice because the Ohs knew the name already, it’s sweet that he’s using the name of that very joyful alter-ego.

kill me heal me episode 20 final image optOnly one last thing to say, which is that even though Korea’s live shoot production system makes for unpolished final products, it also makes for weird serendipity. The winter weather broke here on the East Coast on Monday, just in time for spring weather to appear on the show. When they mention the spring breeze on Kill Me, Heal Me, I felt like it was the same one coming in the window here.

That’s the magic of the live-shoot. (Or perhaps just the magic of watching something that wasn’t made in California, where winter clothing apparently consists of wearing socks under your sandals). I love the moment in a K-drama where everyone stops wearing thick parkas, because it means I can bust out my spring clothes too.

Yo-Sub refers to the breeze in his parting remark, a quote from the last verse of Paul Valery’s 1920 poem “The Graveyard by the Sea”:

“The wind rises!…You must try to live.”

It’s a famous, evocative poem about human existence, about the joy and challenge of being alive. I’m thankful for the little touches like that in this show. Kill Me, Heal Me is weird, messy, and imperfect; but also creative, beautiful and full of heart—just like human beings.

Thanks for reading!

15 thoughts on ““Kill Me, Heal Me” Ep 20: You are Me, I am You

  1. I am gonna comment a lot, please let me
    1st big thanks for writing this
    I am fully aware of the plot hole, the things that need explanation
    the editing and how the filming location, or even the chaebol background
    It maybe need some experience to realize that this is not a blockbuster drama
    not a drama in same cost with MLFAS, the Heirs or even the competition now HJM
    the filming place is not an amazing one, and the product placement is not much which told how they hardly find a sponsor
    plus the struggle to find lead cast and filming 3 week before premier
    I mean, who want to invest in this condition or even MBC maybe didn’t knew what to do if JS and HJE didn’t take the role

    (on contrary I think the kiss scene is due to public broadcast, they need to restrain it, cable drama give better kiss)

    but then,do I care about that? yes, in small percentage but I don’t need it
    I embrace the drama for what it give me
    it wasn’t a drama about the company heir/heiress or family issue
    this drama is about how to cope up with the memory and how Do hyun is healed
    as show on 1st ep how DH is struggling with multiple personality and ended happily under the sun in ep 20
    it just lovely journey with a lot of laugh, tears and pay off every episode

    this drama is my 1st spot with dae jang geum (2004)(finally something dethrone queen seon dok)
    the character than flesh out and well loved, the tight writing that make the dialogue richer that we thougt before
    on ep 20 especially when Se-Gi said he can comeback but refused to take DH painful memory
    the choice of word (they seriously have great dialogue), and as remind, oppa is an attack word
    the character pov and how they handle the meory but the baseline for me is how family impact on us
    – that;s how Ri-Jin endure it all –
    the bad guy is always a background in this journey
    since all the thing is about knowing why he has 7 personality and how he can live with that
    I like the way everything is minimize (most of it because even DH didn’t care)
    and that’s all I want for him,

    On top of all is the never give up crew
    and of course all actor/actress
    child actor/actress, they’re cute and they can act on their part, the way they cry and speak is so touching
    I think Jisung, HJE and PSJ should give an award since they are saving this drama (at least by MBC)
    in term that jisung and hje who accept as last hope, the last choice they can think of and remain the best
    JS who actually just want to wait for baby born and HJE who just finishing another project
    also PSJ who is not leaving after everybody leaving even he is 2st cast confirmed, accept not to be lead male and showing the lovable Oh ri-On
    imo Oh ri-on character is wonderful and PSJ completed it
    I read the writer message in last ep script,and I think they’ve been under a lot of trouble,
    jisung even said he really want to accept the offer because all the casting difficulty
    and HJE said that I am not an important character since this drama is more about JS

    but the fact what they did amaze me, just the way DH and RJ hug or stare or crying at ep 17
    break my guard completely, HJE is lovable and just wonderful as RJ
    the way ri-on afraid, being fun, angry and sad also cry just make me wonder if ri-on is real person

    I might be looked like exaggerating but it just after I watched ep 20 in 2nd time
    it’s all I can remember, all the journey, the tears and the joy and everything that warm my heart
    I am satisfied with the ending, I smile and it is real

    and also, I like Mr.X as something out of order,
    it’s like the show warn us about expectation, you can have it but you also need to face it
    it maybe not as bad as you can, it just it
    so many theories spend around this drama yet the writer seems to always surprise the audience
    and i think I can’t ask for more

    after seeing what mr.x told DH I try to reach a project which in my mind already burned down to ash for me
    and it actually start and I can have a part, all this time, I was thinking to much rather than take the action

  2. Thank you…Thank you very much for your wonderful recap!

    I love EVERY word of it and it made me feel a little better with the withdrawal symptoms I’m currently having.
    This drama has been one of my favorites. All those imperfections were overshadowed by how much I love it and how much I care more about the characters for it made me enjoy it fully.

    I decided to have a break watching Kdramas for a month or so because I tried to watch one this afternoon but I ended up thinking about the characters in KMHM and it made me compare the awesome show to others.

    I agree in what you said above about ‘connection to the viewers’.In my kdrama viewing experience, I figured out that the reasons I came to love my favorite dramas are because I felt a deep connection to the characters and I look at how convincing they act that I would never thought that they were in a drama. I don’t care about the actors looks nor their popularity when finding a good drama. I just wanted the feeling of ‘connection’ and I’ll be sold.With that, I am very glad to have watched this drama. It made me love JS and HJE to greater heights and they are my favorite kdrama pair to date.

  3. @ Sunlight: I might have to take a break, too, because I’ll be thinking about KMHM for awhile! Connection with the audience is the most important thing for me, and it’s exciting that the emotional connection doesn’t depend on a big budget. I love it when a show gets past my cynical grown-up side and makes me love it like crazy. JS and HJE are just an amazing pair–you feel like they threw themselves into it 100%. Thank you so much for reading, I could talk about this show so much!

    @ Anastasya: Thanks for all your comments! One reason this show makes me so happy is that they succeeded despite the casting problems and delays in starting production. And it’s possible the show got some of its crazy energy from the bad situation. It looked like KMHM would be a disaster, so everyone involved, especially JS and HJE, had “nothing to lose.”

    In that situation, if you’re an actor, writer, director, whatever, you might as well do what feels right and have as much fun with the project as possible. The MBC money guys don’t expect much from you. That gives everyone a chance to do crazy stuff–like have JS running down the street in a schoolgirl’s outfit and planting a kiss on PSJ. (Bravo to PSJ for hanging in there on this project since the beginning. He made that weird character work for me and he kept up with way more experienced actors.)

    It’s funny that KMHM struggled for sponsors and product placement, and then, hilariously, Yona’s pink lip gloss was a hit! I don’t think anyone expected THAT: http://www.soompi.com/2015/02/16/who-sells-lipstick-better-jun-ji-hyun-or-ji-sung/. I love how unpredictable the K-drama business is. And I’m going to try to remember Mr. X’s words myself. He and that briefcase are a goofy, but sweet, image for the worrying we do–an image that can help us laugh and keep moving forward instead of getting stuck. We all need a Mr. X.

  4. What to do with my Wednesdays and Thursdays now! 🙁
    Enough has been said about the satisfying finale that I don’t need to add more to it. I didn’t care about about corporate warfare and was glad they quietly wrapped it up quickly. I also like that granny only thawed slightly and didn’t get a complete personality transplant. I still think she should also be held accountable for the abuse. Maybe she really didn’t know.
    I know there are more bigger dramas scheduled for latter half of this year, with high profile returns (SJK, KSH, LMH etc), and I hope they all do well. But I truly wish Ji Sung’s shockingly good performance is not overshadowed by them come award season time.

    PS: I watched Secret while waiting for new episodes of KMHM. Korean melodramas are slowly winning me over (Nice Guy being the first one)

  5. Aish I’ve been struggling for days to come up with actual WORDS besides the belly laughs and strangled sobs this show evoked. Whatever I could come up with, you said it for me better lol. Suffice to say, thank you Kill Me Heal Me, for the craziest ride I was intending to hold against you before you started. It was more than fun. Both despite and because of this unprecedented mix of madness and pathos, you were downright cathartic. Thanks for exceeding my expectations throughout your run, and not failing them in your finale.

  6. I wonder if it will be common that, now that this wonderful story has ended, we just can’t start another Kdrama right away? I am feeling the same way. The characters in this story (well, except for the stereotypical rich family member and their conflicts) were so rich and so – just, human. Ji Sung’s performances were a wonder, each one nuanced and fully realized. Thank you to the writer for the wonderful words. I wanted to crawl into my screen and live with these folks, so I guess it’s understandable to have a period of mourning. And then, I can watch it all over again. Thanks for the recap and giving us a place to talk about the journey that was Kill Me, Heal Me.

  7. @ Jane: I’m so sad to start this week without a show to count the minutes towards. But I love it when a show makes me feel inspired to go do my best for the world. After something good, I spend some time just rewatching things I know are good, to keep that cathartic feeling. And then, some random, good story will appear when we least expect it.

    @ Muse: Come to think of it, I also intended to hold something against this show–I rolled my eyes more than once before it started. I love being wrong.

    @ pranx: Chingu! I also watched Secret during the past month! I’m thinking of writing something about it, because, damn, it’s insane but also fascinating. Would love to hear what you think of it.

    I do kind of worry the “system” may forget Ji Sung by the time the awards roll around. Especially with big names to come, and doubtless a couple high-rating shows still to crop up. MBC had better invent some kind of special award for Ji Sung, though–Best Actor for Magically Protecting Producers from Humiliation Even After They’ve Mucked Around.

    My one source of optimism for JS’s recognition prospects is that he was a surprise cross-dressing PPL success. That quirky commercial success may keep him in the minds of industry folks even if they weren’t watching and didn’t see how hard he worked. Nothing like selling lip gloss as well as Jun Ji-Hyeon to catch the attention of the Producer Anthonys out there. Silly as PPL is, that lip gloss makes me happy.

  8. Secret! Its like an illegitimate love child of Nice Guy and Heirs. I liked Nice Guy and couldn’t stand Heirs. So the only way I could watch Secret was to fast forward through everything but JS/HJE scenes. It is so crazy that I don’t know how it would have worked if not for them two. All the wrist grabbing and force kissing reminded me of Heirs. The stakes here were high enough to warrant the violence but the force kissing… urgh! Kudos to Ji Sung for not making his character as thoroughly unlikeable here. The revenge part was better written in Nice guy. His silence there made sense. Hers, in Secret, makes no sense after midway point.
    Secret was HJE’s show to own and own it she did. What I like about her is that she goes all out for her character. No delicate flowers in her vase. And Ji Sung intense at a whole different level than Shin Se Gi. I find it nice that they both swapped places in terms of playing central character between that show and KMHM.

    • I haven’t seen Nice Guy since I’m only recently getting into melodramas, but I’ve put it on my list, and now you’ve made me look forward to it. What drew me into Secret was that I didn’t feel like the director tried to sell the characters as anything less than crazy. Heirs expends so much energy trying to romanticize messed-up, controlling behavior. The writer or director or both seemed to be totally oblivious to the craziness. (So there are also moments when, say, Kim Tan isn’t totally evil.)

      But in Secret, well, the script keeps explicitly referring to “Wuthering Heights,” which is one of the most messed-up “love” stories ever written in the English language. No one can read “Wuthering Heights” and consider it romantic. A story of obsession, revenge, hatred, class conflict, death, lots of death–in my English teacher days I even read interpretations that compare the main characters to vampires and ghosts. (In case you’ve managed to avoid it, it’s worth knowing that the occasional movie versions of W. Heights change the plot and characters a LOT to make it bearable.)

      There are lots of ways the director allowed the crazy to shine through in Secret, like THAT kiss scene (OMG!!), which is the most violent attack I’ve ever seen in a K-drama. That scene is hair-raising (and totally reminiscent of W. Heights). I don’t understand viewers who found the show romantic. (WTF?) But I did find it good story-telling about twisted, twisted people. And very sexy in its dark way, just not romantic. Thank goodness JS and HJE played such good people in KMHM or I’d associate them with those characters! Watching them in KMHM is good post-Secret therapy. Uck, I feel gross just thinking about their issues in Secret! Blech!

  9. I try my best to convert anyone into a SJK fan 🙂

    That kiss scene was violent, but apt since both of them were in an abusive relationship with each other, the romantic background music was jarring though. Your comments are spot on about this show mirroring Wuthering Heights. The show even had a line “If revenge born out of love leads to tragedy, what does love born out of revenge lead to?” Hair raising indeed.
    Where I felt that the show fell flat was in the supporting leads. The second lead guy was hamming it up so much it was unbearable. And Chae Yeon from KMHM seems like an angel in front of the second lead female from Secret.

    LOL about KMHM being post-Secret therapy. After seeing her being manhandled like that in Secret, its such a relief to see her being treated so preciously. And she looks so happy for most of the show! I loved her screeching!

    I have, yes, avoided Wuthering Heights. Even now, I tend to avoid tragedies like plague.

    Keep writing friend. I enjoy your well written posts as much as I enjoy the shows themselves. Will look forward to your uncaps/thoughts on different shows!

    • I have finally finished watching this show and reading all your uncaps. Now I know why you went on such a Ji Sung bender. He is fabulous. I can see why they had a hard time casting the role and I am so glad no one but Ji Sung took it. I also can’t fathom why Park Seo-Joon took his role but I am glad he did. I enjoyed both of their performances immensely. I wonder if this director is better with men than women though. I found pretty much all of the males interesting to watch. Secretary Ahn and the cousin both seemed like real people. The women were much less three dimensional and while I felt I understood the screeching of Oh Ri Jin I never felt it was believable.

      As to the ending – my only wish was that we knew what happened with the cousin. I loved that the rest of it was simply left unstated.

      I thought I would take a minute to say thank you for them and to tell you that I find your writing hilarious. I seriously think you should write a review for KMHM and give it the tag line “Faulkner on kimchee-flavored acid”. There are so many other great lines in your recaps to sprinkle in the over-all review that I could not list them all with ease. I do think the reviews serve a purpose different than recaps and that this show deserves one so that potential future viewers might give the show a chance beyond the first few episodes.

      Another thing I could use is an explanation of the filming schedule that you have mentioned several times in the recaps.

      I know you said you rewatched it. How did you find it stood up? It is not something I do often (exception is made for Rebecca on a regular basis). I am thinking this might end up on my rewatch list because it has made me think of my favourite 2 kdramas so far. Liar Game, for some of the really subtle facial expressions in amidst the total over the top story line. And A Word from Warm Heart in a way I can’t quite explain. AWFWH is real. I know those people. KMHM is utter fantasy and yet I also know those people. Perhaps this is about the stories that get to the heart of the matter no matter the vehicle.

      • Hi Erin! I’m so glad you finished KMHM! I think you might be onto something regarding the men vs women in the show. I’ve noticed that a fair number of K-dramas have male characters that are more fleshed-out than the female characters. Sometimes this is clearly a result of the script. But here you might be right about the director. It also helps that the cast is strong–the guy playing Sec. Ahn, for instance. But it’s a seasoned female cast as well, and yet the director kept the women’s performances more one-note. From BTS clips, I know the director requested all that screaming from Hwang Jung-Eum in early episodes, for instance. Thankfully, he scaled it back halfway through, and she doesn’t scream once in the second half of the series.

        I do enjoy rewatching KMHM. Especially since I rely on subtitles. It’s one of the dramas where characters convey a lot through their expressions. In particular, the cast is good at reacting to each other. And I didn’t catch all those reactions when I was focused on reading. But just as importantly, it has heart, miles and miles and miles of heart. We’re so fortunate JS took this part, and then threw himself into it with such enthusiasm. Watching other stuff with him is interesting because he’s generally been given pretty standard K-drama “types.” He plays even the blandest roles with energy and professionalism, but he isn’t challenged. Sometimes these are the parts that other actors might just turn down because they aren’t very interesting. But there’s another way of approaching a creative profession, which is to just work as much as possible and learn as much as possible from every experience. And when you watch his stuff, you can see him learning and practicing and getting better year by year. It makes me really look forward to seeing how he keeps developing.

        I’ve considered putting together a review, so I’m glad you say that would be useful! I like to wait some time after watching a show before writing a review, to let my brain absorb everything. I think I’m almost there with KMHM. (I was so proud when I worked Faulkner and kimchee into the same sentence. 🙂 ) I know what you mean about stories that get to the heart of the matter. I’ve had that experience a couple times with K-dramas, of feeling I know these people. It doesn’t make sense, given how totally not-Asian I am! But some of the K-writers really know how to pull me in. (Do you mean the Hitchcock “Rebecca”? I often suspect the K-drama writers of having studied Hitchcock’s playbook carefully.)

  10. I love Daphne du Maurier. I have read Rebecca many times and it all started when I watched the Hitchcock movie (double bill with Notorious) as a preteen. I must have watched it 20-30 times. It is the only movie I own other than kids movies, but those aren’t exactly mine. I had noted you mentioned Rebecca in another post. The writers could do worse than to study Hitchcock and du Maurier.

    I don’t see myself looking for all JS shows but I did watch secret this last weekend. I thought it was excellent. I was impressed that I rarely saw them as being from KMHM. Oddly the one time JS did remind me of a KMHM character it was a hand movement like Yo Na. I found this particularly odd given what an angry angry character he is playing in Secret, so unlike Yo Na.

    One of your early recaps mentioned the screaming and getting used to it. This helped me when we started watching. I think the thing that annoyed me the most about it was it simply seemed unrealistic. But that is a minor hiccup in a really lovely show.

    • Double-billed with Notorious! Oh wow, that would be amazing! I didn’t see Rebecca till I was an adult (I was lucky enough to take a college class on Hitchcock movies) but Notorious was one of the only Cary Grant movies at the local video place when I was a teenager. When it comes to Rebecca, my heart is mostly with the novel because I read it first, over and over when I was about 12. My favorite Hitchcock movie is The Lady Vanishes, which is probably the only one I’ve seen more than a dozen times. Since it was made in England before Hitchcock went to Hollywood, it doesn’t have that polished H-wood lighting and camera magic. But it’s such a perfectly executed mix of comedy, romance, suspense and slice-of-life travel narrative.

      The challenge of telling a story to a wide audience seems to lead Hitchcock and K-dramas to some of the same tactics–the mix of earnestness and irony (that George Saunders character in Rebecca!), the emotional melodrama mixed with the intellectual puzzle-solving. I’m glad you liked Secret! It’s so radically different that I also forgot about KMHM when I was watching it. Amazing. Also amazing that I like Secret, when on paper it really shouldn’t work. Angry hero, impossible plotline… but somehow it struck me not so far from the kind of story du Maurier liked to tell.

      I do wish we could make a no-screaming edit of KMHM. Alas.

  11. yes please on the scream free (or even scream reduced) edit. I think it was intended to convey female strength. showing how her past had not been allowed to make her weak.

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