Earlier this week, a bad case of insomnia gave me a chance to catch up on Yong Pal, Korea’s big summer hit. It’s almost halfway through it’s 20-episode run, so I’m not judging it too soon. I can confidently declare that this show is completely and totally insane.
Korean medical dramas take a famously casual approach to plausibility, but Yong Pal throws the old standards off a bridge, exposes them to toxic radiation and then hides them away in a secret twelfth floor Bat Cave where we may never find them again.
What do you say about a show this brazenly uninterested in logical narrative construction? I admit: Yong Pal zips along at such high speed that it’s easy to get swept up. This sucker moves. As soon as we learn our initial premise—medical resident Kim Tae-Hyun (Joo Won) is moonlighting as a doctor for gangsters—the plot is already shifting rapidly.
Police detectives start closing in. Tae-Hyun finds himself drawn into being an accomplice to a crime that’s bizarre even by K-drama chaebol standards: the evil Han Do-Joon (Jo Hyun-Jae) is keeping his half-sister Han Yeo-Jin (Kim Tae-Hee) imprisoned on the hospital’s VIP floor. And she’s not just locked up—she’s in a medically-induced coma! And her doctor is evil, too! (Though, he is not, alas, Doctor Evil.)
As a villain, Han Do-Joon is reminiscent of the Evil Brother played by Shin Sung-Rok in My Love from Another Star. Do-Joon is a very, very Bad Guy—end of story. We’re supposed to fear him, but instead I just find him puzzling. Why is he this desperate for control of the conglomerate? Doesn’t he have any hobbies?
Joo Won is full of charisma, and so is Kim Tae-hee, once she wakes up. In fact, the whole cast is top-notch, and the director and crew have gone all out in staging the action sequences.
The hero’s secret alter ego and the occasional outburst of martial arts invite comparison to City Hunter. But in place of City Hunter‘s suspense and psychological depth, we have speed, lots of speed. Our hero is likable, but not particularly complicated. He doesn’t get much sleep. He’s a wiz with a scalpel. He has a cool backpack. What more do you wanna know?
I still can’t figure out who double-crossed whom during the last big plot arc. I could probably unravel the mystery if I wanted to. But everything about Yong Pal suggests we’re not supposed to understand the plot, we’re just supposed to go along for the ride.
And it’s a crazy, crazy ride. I recommend taking along my lovingly crafted K-drama Today Yong Pal Bingo set (10 varied cards, click to download). Enjoy! ♥